New tent city protests lack of affordable Vancouver housing
Published Friday, April 28, 2017 3:30PM PDT
Residents of a new tent city being erected in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside are calling for B.C. party leaders to make homelessness a key issue in the upcoming provincial election.
The vacant lot at 950 Main Street is being dubbed the "Ten Year Tent City" because it was the site of a homeless encampment a decade ago.
Since then, the homeless population in B.C. has more than doubled, said Robert Bonner, one of the original campers.
He's asking for all three political parties to devise policy to solve the issue of affordable housing.
"We need the federal government, provincial government and Gregor [Robertson] to live up to his sworn promise to help us with some social housing in the Downtown Eastside," he said.
The Alliance Against Displacement, one of the organizers of the new camp, says although some social housing is being constructed, there isn't nearly enough, and the units that do exist are out of reach.
The alliance wants to see the province commit to creating 10,000 social housing units that are affordable for people on welfare and social assistance.
"These tent cities are spaces of survival for those thousands of people who don't have access to housing or even basic shelter in the City of Vancouver," said Maria Wallstam.
The camp comes just five months after city staff dismantled another tent city in the neighbourhood at 58 West Hastings Street.
And in 2014, City of Vancouver staff and police enforced a B.C. Supreme Court order to tear down a large encampment at Vancouver's Oppenheimer Park. That site, started as a protest against shelter conditions and housing affordability, housed more than 100 people.
Bonner said homelessness is a huge barrier to finding work and being productive, because people are just struggling to survive day to day.
"It's awfully hard to be productive when you've got to get out of a shelter bed to get ready to go to work, or you've got to line up at three in the afternoon for your nightly meal," Bonner.
More than 3,600 people were counted as homeless in this year's homelessness housing count, which represents a 30 per cent jump since 2014.