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B.C. will relocate hundreds of homeless people to vacant hotel rooms
Published Saturday, April 25, 2020 9:19AM PDT Last Updated Saturday, April 25, 2020 7:07PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- The province of British Columbia is planning to relocate over 1,000 people who are homeless into vacant hotel rooms.
The government said it has worked with municipalities since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to secure 1,700 hotel and community centre spaces.
In a joint statement Saturday from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, government announced spaces for 686 people in Vancouver and 324 in Victoria.
The spaces are meant for people living in large tent cities, including Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver as well as Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue in Victoria.
Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, said the homeless camps in those areas will be dismantled and people will be moved to the spaces that have been identified.
He said the encampments present "an elevated risk," where it is impossible to follow the recommendations of the provincial health officer to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (frequent hand washing and physical distancing.)
Simpson said healthcare workers have withdrawn services from the tent cities because of safety concerns.
The province said each person will have their own living space, and access to meals, laundry, washrooms, storage, and health-care.
Advocates had been calling on the government to help the homeless population self-isolate during the pandemic.
Vancouver city councillor Jean Swanson was set to introduce a motion to encourage a similar move next week.
“The provincial health officer says we should isolate and stay at home but you can’t stay home if you don’t have a home,” Swanson told CTV News Monday.
There are eight hotels in Vancouver that will be opening their doors to the homeless.
Victoria will use five hotels with the dozens of other hotel spaces scattered all across the province.
BC Housing will start moving people into the temporary accommodations starting Saturday.
The province will be using its powers under the declared state of emergency to relocate everyone out of encampments by May 9. The hotels aren’t being named but the province said the spaces will be rented with a lease agreement.