NANAIMO -- The City of Nanaimo is promising a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to large homeless encampments in the downtown core after the 400-block of Wesley Street saw a spike in overnight gatherings. 

“We are just trying to reign in the some of the disorder that’s happening,” says David Laberge, the manager of community safety for the City of Nanaimo.

Upwards of 20 overnight camps were being built along the roadway and fence line every night, which brought large amounts of debris – including fires lit in burn barrels – to the area.

Nanaimo homeless

“We don’t want any accumulation of structures that start obstructing roadways and businesses,” says Laberge.

The city says the problem on Wesley Street started in the fall of 2019, but that staff didn’t start to crack down heavily on encampments until the new year, after concern grew among local businesses. 

Meanwhile, Island Health and Canadian Mental Health both offer services on the same street, and have asked the city for assistance in combatting the problem.

The city believes that the location of an overdose prevention site on Wesley Street is also contributing to the concentration of homelessness in the area.

“Structures being built on the roadway or fence line are not permitted at any time,” says Laberge. “We will respond immediately and ask them to remove it.”

The RCMP and the city’s sanitation team are also helping with enforcement and regular cleaning of the area.

The city says that people experiencing homelessness are permitted to make camp in any undeveloped area of a municipal park.