Within a matter of weeks, residents of downtown Merritt’s new ‘tent city’ were cleared out, with ‘No Trespassing’ signs now adorning the entrance to the former encampment. Set up in an unfinished building in the 2100 block of Quilchena Avenue, the long abandoned foundation was host to multiple tents and other makeshift shelters for a number of weeks in August.

The Merritt RCMP confirmed to the Herald that it was present on August 24 to ensure all went smoothly as a private contractor, hired by the property owner, cleared out the ‘tent city.’ There were no incidents stemming from this event. The City of Merritt said that camping is prohibited in all locations in the City, with one notable exception.

“The only place in Merritt where homeless people are allowed to camp is N’Kwala Park, between 7pm and 8am,” said the City in a statement to the Herald.

“Camping in other locations in the City is not allowed. The City may take action when staff see, or receive complaints about, infractions such as unsightly property issues, trespass, etc. If there are any violations of law, the RCMP are responsible for enforcement.”

At the May 24 regular meeting of Council, councillors voted 4-1 to allow the use of tents for overnight camping in N’Kwala Park, a small park north of Lions Memorial Park. The park is also adjacent to the Merritt Community Shelter, which offers daily meals, showers, storage lockers, and beds. The shelter is operated by the Nicola Valley Shelter and Support Society (NVSSS), with funding from BC Housing and Interior Health.

Tent cities have become a common sight throughout both metropolitan and rural municipalities in B.C., shedding light on the ongoing underlying issues of housing insecurity and addictions. The latest numbers offered by the Province’s homeless count initiative are from 2020, and detected that 43 people were unhoused in Merritt at that time.

For more information on NVSSS, and other support offered for those facing housing insecurity, visit www.nvshelterandsupport.com.