It isn’t long before a discussion about homelessness in Campbell River turns to the rumour of busloads of homeless people being shipped to the community.
It’s been a rumour for years and it arose again during a discussion about homelessness at Campbell River city council’s Aug. 16 Committee of the Whole.
“We hear on a regular basis…that people are specifically being bused into Campbell River, from other communities to access our services,” Coun. Claire Moglove said during a discussion with Stefanie Henderickson, coordinator of the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness (CRDCEH).
Moglove asked Hendrickson to speak to that issue during Hendrickson’s presentation to the Committee of the Whole.
“So yeah, so this is one of those those rumors that circulates and sort of gets blown out of proportion,” Hendrickson said. “I think people, in their heads, imagine these huge busloads of people coming in, getting dropped off.
“There’s simply no evidence that that is happening at the frontline level.”
There does appear to be more homeless people on the streets and that’s because there is. The numbers are rising, Hendrickson said, but they’re rising everywhere.
Also present everywhere is the rumour that homeless people are being bused into their community, usually from a larger centre. In Campbell River it’s Victoria and Nanaimo’s homeless being shipped here. Even in Port Hardy, the rumour is that Campbell River’s homeless are being shipped there.
“Every municipality I’ve talked to has said that they also hear that…chronically unhoused individuals are getting bused in to their community because their services are so good, or for whatever reason,” Hendrickson said. “If every municipality is saying that that’s happening, well, where are they coming from?”
Hendrickson told city councillors that CRDCEH’s most recent surveys of people experiencing homelessness show that three-quarters of those responding “had lived in Campbell River anywhere between one year and their entire lives.” Almost 50 per cent had lived in Campbell River for 10 years or more.
“So that shows us that the majority of people living in Campbell River who are unsheltered have lived here for a significant amount of time,” Hendrickson said.
You may hear that individuals have come here from other towns for various reasons but the few that did come here from out of town came with their partner, or other family connections or they came for employment and it didn’t work out.
But the belief that people are being bused to Campbell River is pervasive and longstanding. The Mirror recently received an email from a resident concerned not that people are being bused here but because the rumour is out there and is widely believed.
“A couple of my neighbours are quite insistent that the province, and the feds, are sending homeless, drug-addicted individuals to Campbell River. The story goes that they are put on a bus with a one-way ticket and shipped to Campbell River,” the email says. “By extrapolation, I expect that if I have neighbours in two households who believe this, then there are likely many others here who also do. “
As luck would have it, Hendrickson was making her presentation the very week this email came in.
The issue of proving that people are being bused here is a dicey one. How do you prove something is not happening?
It’s not just Campbell River, Duncan-based Black Press journalist Robert Barron wrote in July, 2019, that “We’ve been hearing lots of rumours these days about homeless people from other communities being bused into the Cowichan Valley.
“According to the rumours, the homeless are being sent here so that the Valley’s already overtaxed social services for the needy will take care of them, offloading that responsibility from the communities from which they came.”
Barron made some inquiries and concluded, “there’s not one iota of proof that I’ve come across to date that confirms that any bus loads of homeless people have been, or are being, sent to the Valley from elsewhere.”