LETTER: Tent city in Nelson?

Reader Kevin Megale says if the city won't act, people will act for themselves.

For years now, much has been written about the “housing crisis” in Nelson. And yet our city council has failed to act across a range of possible housing solutions.

The proposed Airbnb regulations are tepid compared with what is being considered in other cities, tilted in favour of business and doing nothing to redress the dozens of homes already lost from the long-term rental market in town. Meanwhile, this council has made no investment in new affordable housing, despite being presented with more than one promising opportunity. And now the city campground, a public good meant to accommodate temporary guests to Nelson for a maximum of two weeks, has been turned down as a temporary homeless solution.

I see the character of Nelson continuing to change in response to the housing crisis. And I know that people are suffering this month as winter sets in.

A series of legal decisions in British Columbia, beginning with Victoria (City) v. Adams in 2008 and continuing through appeal and subsequent references, has established and upheld the right of homeless people in this province to set up camps on public land, at least between dusk and dawn for temporary overnight shelter.

This right has not been tested in Nelson, but perhaps it’s time? A well-organized, polite and community-aware tent city would not risk being shut down by the police or the court like the unruly Victoria camp was recently. The city might protest that its bylaws prohibit this use, but we all know what that means (nudge nudge).

If the city won’t act, people will act for themselves. Nelson’s homeless would be within their rights to set up camp. I wonder, where do you think would be an appropriate spot for a tent city in Nelson?

Kevin Megale

Nelson, B.C.

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