Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Victoria's Courthouse Campers on Move to Shelter after Months Outside

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Victoria's Courthouse Campers on Move to Shelter after Months Outside

Article excerpt

Victoria courthouse campers move to shelter

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VICTORIA - Wet, cold and windy nights adjusting tarps and pounding pegs into the soggy ground are about to come to an end for John Bertrim and dozens of others who have slept in tents on the Victoria Law Courts' lawn for months.

Eric Lincoln also said Monday he is getting ready to take down his tent for a move indoors after two months' sleeping outdoors at the courthouse.

Bertrim, his common-law partner Laurel Hanuse and Lincoln are among the first homeless people to volunteer to vacate the bedraggled tent village that sprung up last spring at the courts for a move into a temporary, government-funded shelter at a former Victoria Boys and Girls Club facility.

"You need lots of tent pegs, lots of tarps to make sure your home is secure," said Bertrim, who is 39, noting he's been homeless for the past year.

Tents blow away in the wind, he said.

Lincoln, 44, said he arrived at the camp to be near his street friends after his wife Belinda Jack died in November. He said he's looking for a fresh start after too many bad choices, family break ups and personal losses.

"It's very community oriented here," he said. "Everybody looks after everybody and the community has been very giving."

People regularly arrive with food, clothing and cash, but it hasn't been a complete utopia, with at least one drug overdose death and a stabbing incident that sent one man to hospital and saw police chasing the male suspect through the leafy downtown neighbourhood.

The camp fills the courthouse lawn with all sizes and colours of tents. The City of Victoria installed portable toilets and left a dumpster. A steel drum burns damp wood, emitting clouds of dense smoke that mingles with the constant smell of marijuana.

Starting Tuesday, 40 people will leave the urban campground for warmth, food and help, but not a permanent home.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said 110 people are currently camping at the courthouse grounds, but the $500,000 shelter project can only take 40 people. …

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