‘I got nowhere to go’: Lumby residents face eviction from local campground | Vernon News | iNFOnews

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‘I got nowhere to go’: Lumby residents face eviction from local campground

Virginia Meunier says she and her three dogs have nowhere to go.
December 16, 2016 - 9:00 PM

“WE WOULDN’T BE HERE IF WE HAD SOMEWHERE ELSE TO GO”

LUMBY - Virginia Meunier opens the door of her travel trailer on a mid-December morning and pulls her housecoat tight around her neck. You can see her breath in the -10 C weather, but a rush of warm air proves it’s not as bad as you might think inside the camper, where an electric heater is keeping her and her three dogs warm.

This camper has "saved her butt" before when things got tough. It’s not much, but it’s better than being homeless, she says.

Meunier, along with roughly nine other people living in travel trailers at the Lions Campground in Lumby, have been ordered to evict the grounds by Feb. 15, 2017. The campground is owned by the municipality, and is only authorized to be open six months of the year, from April to September.

“Where do we go?” Meunier says. “I got nowhere to go.”

NO RUNNING WATER, NO CAMP SUPERVISION

Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton says the village learned people were living in the campground past the normal closure date after receiving a complaint from a local resident.

“We discovered there’s no running water, there’s no bathrooms available. There wasn’t any snow removal being done. There was no camp supervision, no lighting, to provisions for emergency vehicle access, as well as a number of vehicles uninsured on public property,” Acton says.

He says the Lions Club was unaware of the bylaw restriction limiting the campground to six months of the year.

“Having people living there with the conditions the way they are really is inappropriate,” Acton says.

Acton acknowledges some of the campers seemed well equipped to handle the cold weather, but he worried about others in the sub-zero temperatures. He says there was also concern that the size of the camp would grow.

“We thought, if there’s people that can’t afford to live in homes or find rentals, there’s other ways we can help them other than having them camp in the cold without any services,” Acton says.

He says efforts have been made to support the campers, including connecting them with the Whitevalley Community Resource Centre.

“We have an amazing system here in this town. We have a great support system with the Food Bank, Whitevalley Community Centre, and Lions Club. There’s so many resources that if there are a few people that need help, we’re pretty quick to take care of them.”

He says the village has also made it legal for any residence in Lumby to have a secondary suite in hopes of expanding the rental market.

“I’VE LOOKED AND LOOKED”

Meunier keeps her camper warm with an electric heater and showers at a friend's house since there is no running water.
Meunier keeps her camper warm with an electric heater and showers at a friend's house since there is no running water.

But residents like Meunier do not want to leave, and even if she did, she insists there is nowhere for her and her dogs — which she considers family — to go. It’s a common refrain amongst those looking for affordable, pet friendly housing in the Okanagan.

“I’ve looked and looked. I can’t find a place to rent and I’m not going to give up my dogs,” she says.

Meunier isn’t working at the moment and receives $610 a month from income assistance. She says she is actively looking for a job.

She pays $300 a month for rent and electricity at the Lions Campground — the rest goes to food for her and her dogs. While there is no running water, she says it’s not too difficult to get by. She goes to a friend’s house to shower and fill up fresh water. The campground bathrooms are closed for the year, but there are porta-potties on site.

“You learn your way around stuff like that when you have nowhere to go,” she says.

She says most of the campers are in their 40s or 50s, and about half of them have dogs. When she moved in around October, it was just her and two other people. Since then, the number of residents has grown to nine.

“That’s how many more people showed up needing places to go,” she says.

Another camper, Darwin Klatt, says he fell on hard times over the past three years and sold his house in the fall. He’s lived in Lumby since 1998 and used to run a mechanic shop in town.

“I’ve been through a number of operations for cancer, and then radiation. That just took the life out of me. I couldn’t look after it (house) anymore,” he says.

Like Meunier, he says he’s happy in his trailer and doesn’t know where else he would go.

“I dare them to be in the same predicament they’re putting us in,” Klatt says of the municipality.

Klatt says the police came by and dropped off a card for the Whitevalley Community Centre, but aside from that he has not received any help finding a new place to live. Asked if he has gone to the resource centre, Klatt says, "what are they going to do?" He insists he is better off where he is. 

“I pay my rent. I pay it on time, every time. I don’t cause any problems. I’m not a drug user,” Klatt says. “I don’t think it’s fair.”

Meunier fears becoming homeless if she can’t stay at the campground.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do. No idea at all,” she says.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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