Warming space collective looks for Place to keep efforts going until March

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The collective behind a grassroots gathering space recently removed from Mouat Park have now moved to an undisclosed location. 

Established by a collective of Salt Spring Islanders, the warming space was dismantled from Mouat Park Jan. 28 following two CRD removal orders. Items were moved to a nearby field, which manager of parks and recreation Dan Ovington said were fully removed on Feb. 1 after an unannounced visit from bylaw officers. Some items were stored by the CRD and the rest were removed by people involved with the warming space. 

The space was provisionally located at the Centennial Park gazebo area over this past weekend, which organizer Kajin Goh said was problematic with limited washroom facilities and being close to the playground and other park users.

“They seem to be pushing us into places where . . . you’re probably going to have more complaints,” he added. 

Goh said the collective met again with the CRD, yet the options presented to them have not been satisfactory. 

Ovington confirmed that people who are “truly unhoused” can set up a tent in a local park from 8 p.m. but must dismantle it the following morning at 8 a.m. They can also apply for a park use permit at the Mouat Park field, Ovington said, as long as they provide their insurance to the CRD and can operate from dawn until dusk when the space would have to be dismantled. Going to the field is not ideal, Goh said, as the area is exposed to neighbouring homes, dog walkers and park users. 

The collective has emphasized what they have established is a warming space and not a camp.

“I know it’s being referred to as a warming tent, but it is an encampment,” Ovington said. “There’s drinking, smoking, drugs, dogs, that have all taken over that space in the park.” 

Typically only one or two people have been camping at the warming space overnight, he added, with others visiting.

Goh said discussions are ongoing at the space around guidelines “because we are in public and there are kids around and we don’t want to leave a mess. But also around things like alcohol use and responsible use.” It’s one of the more challenging pieces of the warming space effort, he said, explaining that when people are stressed, sound, behaviour and alcohol use are factors that come along with it.

Goh said the collective had some visits from a local bylaw officer and what he said were friendly chats with RCMP officers who dropped by the space, one of which involved responding to a call. When reached Monday, Feb. 7 he said he expected some bylaw action the following day and that the warming space would be moved to another location which would remain undisclosed for the time being. The space moved on Feb. 8.

Wanting to continue their efforts until March, Goh said the collective is looking at options including private land in the Ganges area, and are looking to organize a talking circle involving the public and officials. 

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