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117 people remain in encampment on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside as province promises more housing

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B.C.'s housing minister provided an update Sunday on the work being done to get people living on the streets of the Downtown Eastside into housing.

Ravi Kahlon said the province and its partners have been working on a "comprehensive" response plan for the area since July of last year, when Vancouver's fire chief ordered an encampment to be cleared. Ninety people have since been moved into housing, according to a statement from the province.

There are still 117 people living in 74 tents and other structures along the stretch of sidewalk on East Hastings Street. Kahlon said those people will continue to be encouraged to move into temporary, indoor shelter spaces.

By June of 2023, Kahlon said the province and its partners will be opening up 330 units of new housing.

"As safety concerns increase, we are urging people to take up the offers of indoor spaces that are available right now as we continue to open long-term housing," Kahlon said in a statement.

Mayor Ken Sim, who joined the minister for the news conference, reiterated concerns raised by police about violence in the encampment and the surrounding area. He also noted that the fire chief's order was made, in part, because of the risk that a fire could spread to surrounding SRO buildings.

In 2022 hundreds of the city's lowest-cost, last-resort spaces on the Downtown Eastside were destroyed by fires – compounding the homelessness crisis in the area and driving more people onto the streets. These fires were not caused by the encampment, but likely contributed to its growth.

Kahlon noted that a portion of the new housing units that are opening up will be for those who lost their homes in fires.

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