LUMBY - Those facing eviction from a campground in Lumby don’t have a lot of options, according to the director of a local non-profit who says there is a shortage of rental units in the village.
Gay Jewitt is the executive director of the Whitevalley Community Resource Centre in Lumby, and says available housing is “minimal to non-existent.”
The statement echoes the words of people living in travel trailers at the Lions Campground, who say they have nowhere else to go. The Village of Lumby is evicting them from the publicly-owned property due to a number of concerns, including the lack of running water, uninsured vehicles, sanitary conditions, lack of camp supervision, emergency vehicle access, impacts on the surrounding community, and the campers’ welfare in the cold weather. Concerns raised by police, the fire department and the municipality can be read in full here.
The campers have two months to find alternate accommodation, and must be out by Feb. 15.
Jewitt says some of the campers have been in touch with the resource centre, but outreach workers will be knocking on doors to make sure no one is left unsupported. The centre has counsellors and programs to help people through challenging times, but there is a limit to how much the non-profit can do for the campers in terms of finding them a new place to live.
The centre keeps an up-to-date inventory of available rentals, with staff scouring the newspaper and online listings every week. Often there are only one-to-two rental units available in Lumby on any given day, meaning there is no way the resource centre could, at the moment, come up with immediate housing for the six to nine displaced people at the campground. Plus, the rentals that are available might be out of the price range for those on low-income, or they might not allow pets, Jewitt says.
The Village of Lumby has made secondary suites legal in hopes of expanding the rental market, according to Mayor Kevin Acton.
Vacancies are tight throughout the Okanagan and affordable housing, as well as pet friendly housing, can be tough to come by, Jewitt says. She’d like to see the province invest in low-income housing projects in all communities to help fill the void.
“It’s a much bigger picture than how we’re going to support these people in the campground. It is province-wide and not a problem likely to go away any time soon,” she says. “It’s more of a concern than it’s ever been since I’ve been working in this field, and not just for people on low income, but families as well. It’s much more widespread than it used to be.”
One camper told iNFOnews.ca she is on a fixed income of $600 a month, of which $300 pays for her spot at the campground, and the rest goes to food for herself and her dogs. On that level of income Jewitt says it would be extremely difficult to find a place to live.
“I’m thinking the only choice a person has with that limited income would be to share a place with someone,” Jewitt says. “That (amount) would be very little to live on.”
She’s hopeful the centre will be able to help campers find housing over the next two months, but says realistically, it might not be possible. So, what options are left for those facing eviction?
“Some people find friends or family. Others may end up in a shelter,” she says. “It will be a challenge for those people. We’re going to pitch in and see what we can do for them. I definitely don’t have the answer and I don’t think anybody does.”
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