Home­less­ness an ‘is­sue’ on Salt Spring

Cen­ten­nial Park sees rise in crime

Times Colonist - - Island / B.c. - JEFF BELL jw­bell@times­colonist.com

Larger cen­tres aren’t the only places with home­less is­sues, as shown by con­cerns that have arisen on Salt Spring Is­land.

An al­leged Fri­day night in­ci­dent on Salt Spring, in which some­one took swings at a Cap­i­tal Regional District by­law of­fi­cer in Cen­ten­nial Park in Ganges, shows what sort of things have been hap­pen­ing in the area, said Don Brown, the CRD’s chief by­law of­fi­cer.

It is not known if the man be­lieved to be re­spon­si­ble is home­less, but he was part of a group that had been at the park, said Salt Spring Is­land Elec­toral Area di­rec­tor Gary Hol­man.

The man also tried to hit the by­law of­fi­cer with a foot­ball thrown from be­hind the of­fi­cer, Brown said. The throw missed be­cause some­one yelled a warn­ing.

The man was ar­rested, and al­legedly re­sisted po­lice at­tempts to hand­cuff him. A 36-year-old is sched­uled to ap­pear in court in Jan­uary 2021.

Brown said another man was also ar­rested by po­lice after an al­leged as­sault of two by­law of­fi­cers about a month ago.

The CRD has only one full­time by­law of­fi­cer on Salt Spring, he said, with fund­ing now in place for some part-time help.

Hol­man said Salt Spring has been deal­ing with home­less­ness for some time.

“We do have a home­less is­sue here, I guess as many com­mu­ni­ties do, and there is a pub­lic-dis­or­der is­sue in

Cen­ten­nial Park specif­i­cally.”

Rob Grant of Salt Spring Com­mu­nity Ser­vices es­ti­mated the is­land’s home­less pop­u­la­tion at 80 to 100.

“I think ev­ery com­mu­nity strug­gles with it.”

Just like else­where, he said that men­tal health and ad­dic­tions are part of the is­sue.

Brown said Cen­ten­nial Park is a pop­u­lar com­mu­nity greenspace on Salt Spring, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pan­demic, a large group of peo­ple has been gath­er­ing there. “They’ve al­most taken over the park.”

Some, but not all, are home­less, Brown said.

“They bring their boom boxes and they bring their drugs and they bring their al­co­hol.”

He said many Salt Spring res­i­dents have said they are afraid to go the park. “It’s become quite an is­sue.”

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