Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon has criticized Prince George city council’s decision to remove the Millennium Park homeless camp.
“I am disappointed to learn of Prince George council’s decision to move forward with the decampment of people who are sheltering at Millennium Park without adequate indoor shelter options,” he said in a statement posted to the ministry website. “Addressing homelessness in Prince George is a critical priority for our government, and we know that encampments are not a long-term solution. That’s why the province signed a memorandum of understanding with the city in June, with significant resources to ensure those in need in Prince George will have access to shelter.”
The province has offered Prince George new resources like dedicated encampment response staff and deployment of temporary housing units to the community, Kahlon said.
“Despite that, council has chosen not to access those resources to assist people living in Millennium Park to move indoors and to move unilaterally with this decampment – in the absence of appropriate resources,” he said.
According to the city, however, throughout August the situation at Millennium Park has deteriorated signiﬁcantly.
“Recent reports from the RCMP, Prince George Fire Rescue, and city frontline workers indicate serious safety concerns for both responders and occupants of the park as the result of increased density,” according to a statement issued by the city last week. “These conditions have severely impacted the ability of emergency responders to provide assistance to individuals sheltering on the site.”
Occupants of Millennium Park have been notiﬁed that all personal property must be removed from the site by September 9, 2023. Any material remaining in Millennium Park after this date will be removed and permanently disposed of. The site will then be closed to the public while options for remediation are considered.
“It’s especially disappointing given the positive work we have done with Mayor Simon Yu and the city on other supportive housing projects that are currently underway,” said Kahlon. “We will do what we can to try to ensure as many people as possible are supported and have shelter, but this decision presents significant challenges. We’ll continue to monitor this situation closely and urge council to reconsider this decision.”
In July, the city issued a statement conﬁrming its understanding that, through its HEART and HEARTH initiatives, the province was connecting with homeless individuals occupying Millennium Park, and was working to identify appropriate alternate shelter and supports, including by working in collaboration with Indigenous and community partners. The city understands that this work continues.