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Castlegar homeless encampment moved

People who have nowhere else to go since the closure of the Castlegar homeless shelter at the end of March have now moved for a second time.

They camped behind the Chevron until the property owner asked them to leave this month.

Deb McIntosh, the manager of the street outreach program for Castlegar and District Community Services, says they have since relocated to a midtown city-owned property “where they can be left alone, secure and safe as homeless people can be.”

McIntosh says the previous location was the longtime site of a camp, so people gravitated toward it, but it was not sanctioned by the owner. She said they understood when they were asked to leave due to liability concerns.

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She said while the number fluctuates, there are five to seven people in the camp, far fewer than were staying at the shelter, as some former residents did manage to find housing.

McIntosh stressed that neither she nor the city are advocating for tent cities.

“We have a core group of people who were in the shelter that we’re taking care of until we can get them housed,” she said.

“In no way does this mean come to Castlegar we’re going to let you camp, because that’s not the reality. We don’t have a designated spot and I don’t know if we will. That’s a council decision. They have to weigh those things in the public interest.”

McIntosh also urged kindness and understanding of the situation that the people in the camp are in.

“They’re not a menace to society. They’re homeless. They don’t have a roof over their head. They could move in next door to you and then they would no longer be the person you think they are.”

McIntosh said the outreach team is regularly checking on them and helping where they can while working with community services to find secure housing. She added the camp will have to stay small, for if it grows it will likely face calls to be shut down.

“We’re doing our best to keep people safe and let them know they are valued as people and loved as citizens and cared for because we’re a civil society.”

McIntosh said for a small number, living outdoors may be a choice, but others are in situations they find difficult to get themselves out of.

“They don’t want to stay where they are. Nobody wants to live like that forever,” she said.

McIntosh adds that the people in the camp have positive attitudes and are thankful for the kindness and respect shown them by the police and fire department. At the previous location, there were regular complaints about smoke coming from the camp.

McIntosh said people who left the shelter were provided with fire extinguishers donated by businesses, fire resistant tarps, and fire suppression blankets.

Anyone who wants to help is asked to call her at 250-608-1047 or stop by the connections centre in the former shelter at 1660 Columbia Ave, on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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