While the B.C. government announced new measures to ensure renters and landlords in the province get some relief in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, those who live in vans or recreational vehicles year-round face different struggles.
Provincial campsites, visitor centres, playgrounds, washrooms and day-use facilities have closed and municipalities are taking steps to limit crowds at parks and beaches. The City of Colwood announced Tuesday that parking areas adjacent to Esquimalt Lagoon beach, – where campers are sometimes found, despite signs saying they cannot overnight there – Royal Beach and at city parks are closed starting March 25.
Jasper Sunshine, a Canadian military veteran who lives in a camperized cube van, previously told Black Press Media he does so for the lifestyle and the affordability, noting that he would be homeless without the van.
He said the closure of campsites and parking lots hasn’t affected him much, since he has friends with large plots of land and knows how to be resourceful when finding free Crown land to park on. In fact, he said the social distancing measures have been enjoyable for him, because it has always been his “norm.”
However, Sunshine said the closure of public spaces such as recreation centres, public libraries, coffee shops and restaurants has taken a toll on people he knows.
“Those are all places that a lot of people living this lifestyle go to every day to provide to the economy and use facilities like showers at recreation centres, using WiFi, staying connected,” Sunshine said. “To the average person that lives at home or in a condo, a community centre might not be a big deal but for someone that uses that gym for exercise or a shower every day, it’s difficult.”
Sunshine said he understands the need for park and campsite closures in order to keep socially distant, and said that while this may be a big obstacle for many, “we can get through it.”
His advice to those living the camper and van life like himself is to take a deep breath, remember why they started this lifestyle and don’t be consumed by emotions. He recommends asking questions, communicating and starting a conversation to work through problems together.
“A lot of people are going through a hard time right now,” Sunshine said. “We just all have to work together.”