HIGH-PROFILE CAMPING: Daniel Farmer has been camping under an old willow tree on a parcel of high-profile

EDITORIAL: Daniel’s story

Man who is camping on high-profile land in downtown Parksville brings focus to homelessness issue here

Daniel Farmer would enjoy having a more traditional place to lay his head at night.

For now, he’s thankful for the large, old willow tree on city-owned property at the corner of Jensen Avenue and the Alberni Highway. He’s also grateful for the tent provided to him by the Manna Homeless Society.

It’s a high-profile parcel of downtown land, Daniel’s new front yard. It was the subject of talk during last year’s municipal elections and city politicians keep saying they are going to do something exciting with it. Honest. After a few taxpayer-funded studies.

It seems Daniel Farmer is the first person to actually do something useful with the prized lot. While the city talks about studies, Daniel gives thanks to the “old grandfather,” the willow that protects him from the weather.

We spoke with Daniel last week. We were hesitant to make any calls to officialdom about the situation, not wanting to be the cause of his eviction.

He wants to work. He did have a job, but he says he was dismissed the same day he came clean about the fact he has a brain injury and other medical challenges. He was articulate and polite when we spoke with him.

Daniel first tried to set up his tent in the estuary of the Englishman River. He says he was, ahem, escorted out of there by police who explained to him it was a protected area. The birds and the fish and the plants, you see, take precedence over humans in that particular area of our city. Daniel has seemingly done all the right things to find work and a place to live. He’s been in contact with the SOS and the local task force on homelessness. He’s on a waiting list for somewhere safe to live.

For people on the margins of society, there’s always a waiting list.

For people on the margins of society, challenges are presented hour by hour. What to eat? Where to sleep? Is someone going to steal my meagre possessions? What will I do while I wait for six weeks to get into that subsidized apartment?

As far as the enforcement of its bylaws is concerned, the city says it only reacts to complaints. There have been no complaints about Daniel. Considering what happened in camps of people living on city-owned land in Victoria and Vancouver, it’s likely Parksville city hall could not force Daniel to move.

There is nowhere for Daniel to go.

Perhaps a man under a willow tree, on a high-profile corner in this affluent part of the world, personifies what’s wrong with how we deal with the people on the margins of society. Perhaps Daniel’s story will help us all realize homelessness is a real issue, even in an idyllic seaside resort town. — Editorial by John Harding

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