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City to remediate Salmon Arm encampment site, have it ready for soccer season

“We are still working on efforts to move the last camper from this location.”

Soccer fields in Salmon Arm should be ready for the spring season, no matter the status of the south portion of what are commonly known as “Safeway fields.”

That was the word from city staff on April 3, the same day that city crews were resurfacing with fresh gravel the parking lot adjoining the fields on 3rd Street SW.

“Regardless of the status of the south portion of Safeway fields, there should be sufficient bookable field space for spring soccer. This would include Jackson field and the north section of Safeway field, which are under a joint use agreement with SD#83 (School District 83) and the multiple fields at Blackburn and Little Mountain park,” wrote Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, in an April 3 email to the Observer.

Both he and Mayor Alan Harrison said on March 30 that while the city has had some success in moving the majority of campers from Safeway fields, “we are still working on efforts to move the last camper from this location.”

They did not provide further details other than “we will keep you and the community informed,” from Mayor Harrison.

On Monday, April 3, Niewenhuizen also wrote that the field won’t require too much remediation.

“When the final tent is moved, City Staff will begin to clean and remediate the area where all of the campers were. The field itself is generally in good shape and does not require a lot of work; our intent and hope is that we will have this area ready for the start of soccer season.”

Also on April 3, a couple of people who were moving belongings out of the remaining tent said they were trying to vacate the site that day. One person said some of their stuff had already been taken down to the “dog park,” referring to the city-owned parcel on Narcisse Street next to Peter Jannink Park. One said they have received some pretty brutal harassment from people.

Another person without a home said they would be surprised if the last tent was taken down that day. They commented on how kind and thoughtful the city crews are who have been helping other people move down to the new location.

Read more: Salmon Arm to move remaining tenters to city-owned property near park

Read more: Time to go: Tent encampment in Salmon Arm must be moved by March 15

Back on March 15, two people who have been living rough, Franz and Duane, were warming their hands over a small fire between two tents early in the morning.

Franz said the new site would be better than what they’ve had.

“It’s at least something; it’s good for now,” he said, noting the city had put fill in the new spot and installed a porta potty. He pointed to the two large trailers the city had left for everyone at the old site, one for garbage and one for people’s belongings.

“They’re going to move all our stuff for us,” he said, adding that crews can’t transport people because of liability.

He said he wished the new site had been set up much earlier.

Franz said he was just getting over a chest and sinus infection but was grateful it hadn’t turned into pneumonia this year. He said he went over to the shelter at the Downtown Activity Centre the night previous because the temperature was so cold. He normally stays in his tent. He said the A&W restaurant has been good because it has allowed people to stay there as long as they don’t cause any trouble. Sometimes the Salvation Army’s warming centre opens its doors at 6 a.m. instead of 9, he said, so people haven’t always had to wait three hours from the time the shelter closes. He said he’d like to volunteer there; his hope is to get back on his feet and find a job.

Over at the new Narcisse camp on March 27, tenter Bernadine said it’s been “really good, nice and quiet.”

She said someone threw rocks or something at her tent, but otherwise it’s been good. People staying there have been treating each other well and she’s been sleeping pretty good.

Asked her thoughts on a 24-hour shelter, she said she would stay in it in the winter, as it gets so cold. However, she is trying to find a place and is hopeful she will be able to move indoors.

Read more: Long-awaited announcement by BC Housing on emergency shelter for Salmon Arm

Read more: ‘It’s so wrong’: Inaction as temperature drops spurs Salmon Arm resident to set up sea can shelter

Read more: Parking complaints take back seat in Salmon Arm to tent encampment
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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