This unused BMX track on Homewood Road will be used as a temporary campsite for people experiencing homelessness in Campbell River. Google image

This unused BMX track on Homewood Road will be used as a temporary campsite for people experiencing homelessness in Campbell River. Google image

Island city converting unused BMX track into temporary homeless campsite

  • May. 15, 2020 4:30 p.m.

The City of Campbell River is providing a site on an unused BMX track to serve as a temporary campsite for people experiencing homelessness in Campbell River.

Work will soon begin to prepare the site that will support provincial public health orders and provide up to 25 appropriately-distanced camping sites for people experiencing homelessness in Campbell River.

The city intends to clear and grade the former BMX track on Homewood Road and make basic services available at that location, while provincial COVID-19 restrictions for physical distancing are in place.

The initiative is being developed with local social service organizations, including BC Housing. Plans are in the works to arrange for a local organization to manage and operate the site, and to provide as many support services as possible on site. Services could include regular meals, social supports and health services, including visits from doctors and nurse practitioners.

The city will provide preliminary information to nearby businesses and residents next week, including who to contact with any questions or concerns.

“Around the world, people are trying their best to respond to the extremely challenging situation caused by this virus. The province has asked communities across British Columbia to come up with initiatives that best address the local needs of people experiencing homelessness. The entire community benefits when we take action to protect our most vulnerable with this temporary safer camp location during the pandemic,” Mayor Andy Adams said in a press release.

“With limited local capacity to manage multiple emergency housing responses, community service organizations are pulling together to support people in a low-barrier, central location, where camping will be permitted and monitored to minimize the risk posed by this virus,” said city manager Deborah Sargent “People are already camping in the woods and along trails in this area. Setting up a site that provides appropriate physical distancing will better protect the health of these vulnerable people and reduce the demand on our medical system. It could also help contain the potential spread of the virus by reducing the need to travel throughout the community each day seeking basic services.”

North Island Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns said, “I am very encouraged by this holistic and compassionate response from the community and City of Campbell River. COVID-19 is an increased risk for people who do not have the opportunity to self-isolate in a home so the provision of a location for supported camping is good for the individual and good for the community.”

Island Health and BC Housing have arranged for hotel stays if members of the vulnerable population require time in isolated accommodation due to potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Housing outreach workers continue to try to arrange suitable long-term accommodation for as many people as possible in Campbell River.

“This continues to be extremely difficult given Campbell River’s tight rental market and the number of people newly seeking rental accommodation following the apartment fire in April,” Adams said. “We deeply appreciate the partnerships with our community social service organizations and all the work they​’re doing to help with both immediate and longer-term solutions.”

In partnership with the city, BC Housing is currently leading two projects that will help provide long-term affordable housing solutions for Campbell River:

  • An affordable housing project for women and children fleeing violence (40-50 units)
  • Supportive housing (up to 50 units) with 24-hour support services, location to be confirmed

RELATED: One day at a time for Campbell River homeless population

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