For the past several months, a number of people experiencing homelessness have been living in a small camp on vacant City property at 23560 Westminster Highway. This page provides updates on the status of the camp and the City’s response.
A dedicated email address has also been established to receive and respond to public requests for information on this matter. Residents with questions, concerns or comments may contact email@example.com.
There are currently four people experiencing homelessness living on the site. Two additional people who had been living on the site have recently left.
The City has instructed the site occupants that no further growth of the site will be permitted. The occupants have been cooperative in abiding by this direction. While there are occasional fluctuations in the number of tents on the site, any additional tents are quickly removed.
As a compassionate community, Richmond is working hard with its partners to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness and assist the campers in identifying safe, secure housing options.
City staff continue to closely monitor and manage the site to ensure public health and safety concerns are addressed.
Richmond Fire-Rescue visits the site at least twice weekly to ensure fire safety measures are in place and being followed. This includes ensuring there are fire extinguishers and smoke detectors on site, tents are safely spaced and other safety measures are in place.
Bylaw officers visit the site daily to ensure the site meets minimum health and safety and other standards. The site occupants have been co-operative in bagging their garbage for removal and keeping the site contained. Dogs belonging to the occupants have been licensed in accordance with City bylaws. The occupants have been provided with sharps containers for safe disposal of needles. Staff have conducted regular visual inspections of the site and have not observed any needles or canine or human excrement left out in open areas.
Specific requests or complaints regarding bylaw enforcement should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or reported to 604-276-4345.
RCMP, including patrol officers and members of the Vulnerable Persons section, are also visiting the site daily to ensure the residents are safe and to prevent public nuisances or criminal behaviours.
Community safety remains a priority for the City. RCMP report that there has been no recent increase in reported crime in the Hamilton area. In fact, reported crime in the neighbourhood has decreased over the past year. However, given community concerns, RCMP have increased their site inspections and neighbourhood patrols.
The City is committed to resolving this situation and having the site vacated and is working to achieve this goal. However, simply re-locating people experiencing homelessness without providing alternatives will not eliminate the issues related to homelessness in our city.
Every effort is being made to help the site occupants secure affordable housing. The RCMP’s Vulnerable Persons Unit and the Ministry of Social Development’s Outreach Worker has also been out to the site and have provided information to the occupants about services available in the community including potential housing options.
The City is in ongoing contact with the operators of Cranberry Child Care Centre and Hamilton Community Association on this issue. While some residents and parents have expressed concerns about the presence of people experiencing homelessness in the area, there have been no reported significant negative incidents at either the child care or the Hamilton Community Centre.
Community Centre staff are aware of the residents' concerns and continue to review and work with the School Administration, Parent Advisory Committee, Hamilton Childcare Committee and the Hamilton Community Association Board of Directors to ensure the continued safety of our Community Centre and Elementary School.
The Hamilton Community Centre is committed to the safety to all its residents and are vigilant in ensuring all members of the public are behaving in respectful manner and abide by the centre’s code of conduct.
A community information meeting to discuss the camp and the City’s response was held on May 9 in the Hamilton Elementary School. City staff made a presentation and answered questions from the public. Representatives from the City’s Community Safety Division, including Richmond RCMP, Richmond Fire-Rescue and Community Bylaws as well as the City’s Community Services Division were in attendance. About 70 residents attended the meeting.
Staff have compiled a list of concerns raised by residents during the meeting and will be following up on the issues that can be addressed. This will include cleaning up garbage along public pathways in Hamilton, securing vacant homes in the neighbourhood to prevent squatting and investigating the removal of vegetation on public rights of away on Thompson Road. City and RCMP staff will also be following up on concerns and complaints with sufficient specificity that were raised during the meeting.
City actions to address homelessness
While homelessness is not always visible in the community, current estimates are that there at least 120 people experiencing homelessness in Richmond. Housing affordability, the low vacancy rate for rental housing and limited options for people with lower incomes are all contributing to homelessness across the region and within Richmond. There are an increasing number of seniors, women and youth experiencing homelessness.
Residents experiencing chronic homelessness have multiple barriers including addiction or mental health challenges, and require more services and support.
Homelessness is not a crime. Public stigmatization of people experiencing homelessness often acts as a barrier to providing the services and solutions necessary to address this issue.
As a compassionate community, Richmond is working hard to address the needs of vulnerable residents and provide safe, secure options for those currently living on the streets.
A new modular supportive housing complex for people experiencing homelessness opened in late April. It offers 40 studio apartments with wrap around services managed by a professional non-profit housing operator.
An expanded emergency shelter, which will provide 30 beds, be co-ed and accessible, will open in June.
Storeys, a 129-unit affordable housing development and social service hub for families and individuals at risk of homelessness, opened in 2017. The City secured over 2,400 units of affordable housing through development contribution since 2007.
A variety of programs serving people experiencing homelessness in Richmond are also in place including the St. Alban’s shower program and resource centre space operated by Turning Point Recovery Society.
The City’s Homelessness Strategy is being updated to identify further actions to respond to homelessness in our community. A draft report is expected to be presented to Council for consideration this spring.
Legal decisions regarding homeless
There have been a number of recent court decisions in BC regarding people experiencing homelessness camping on public property. Collectively, these decisions form guidelines for municipalities in dealing with this issue. Links to these decisions are provided below:
British Columbia v. Adamson, 2016 BCSC 584
British Columbia v. Adamson, 2016 BCSC 1245
Vancouver (City) v. Wallstam, 2017 BCSC 937
British Columbia v. Adamson, 2017 BCSC 168
Nanaimo (City) v. Courtoreille, 2018 BCSC 1629
Maple Ridge (City) v. Scott, 2019 BCSC 157