'Groundhog Day': Yet another homeless camp could be here a while
VANCOUVER -- Residents of a homeless camp that moved on Tuesday to its fourth location since May say Strathcona Park staff have been welcoming — and they don’t expect to move for a while.
Within hours of being evicted by force from a parking lot near CRAB Park, campers had pitched some 40 tents on the Strathcona Park Track — a situation some Vancouver Park Board commissioners likened to the movie “Groundhog Day.”
“I don’t see what the point is in pushing homeless residents around,” said park board commissioner John Irwin. “I’ve been advocating for a long time that we house people.”
Park rangers have lowered the tennis court nets and encouraged the campers to pitch their tents in the gravel on the Strathcona Park track, rather than damaging the fields.
Irwin said he had written to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau in the hopes he would cancel the eviction from a parking lot belonging to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, a Crown corporation.
But the eviction went ahead Tuesday night anyway. Vancouver police arrested 46 people and dispersed another 60, the Vancouver Police Department said in a news release.
Many of those 60 moved by U-Haul to Strathcona Park, a few kilometres away. Residents who live near the park said they understand the problem that has faced Vancouver officials for months.
“It’s not right what’s happening to them,” said one woman, who gave her name as Judy. “Where are they going to go? But it’s not right that they invade the parks.”
One version of the encampment, at Oppenheimer Park, lasted more than a year until provincial authorities leased hotels and offered homes to hundreds.
The province is now looking at purchasing more property to house the remaining people, B.C.’s poverty reduction minister said, pushing for federal funds to help make the purchase happen. Vancouver’s mayor joined the call for more federal money.
But Irwin told CTV News Vancouver he is coming around to the idea of trying to find a temporary solution so people who live in the encampment can put up tents — just not in parks.
“I may be moving to the point that I’m more open to an interim location, where we have a tent city set up with a goal of getting housing,” he said.
A tent city near Portland, Ore., called “Dignity Village” houses around 60 homeless people at a time. It sits on city-owned land next to a composting facility. Villagers pay $50 per month to a registered nonprofit organization.
The city of Las Vegas also opened up a parking lot at one of the city’s convention centres to the homeless as a safety measure during the pandemic. Homeless people slept six feet apart. The centre is due to close on June 30.
Doug Ehret, who has lived in the homeless camp in Vancouver for five weeks, said that is a solution he thinks most campers would happily go for.
“It’s the first I’m hearing of it,” he said. “It would be great if that could happen.”
Park Board Commissioner Tricia Barker said she understood the difficulty the campers face. She said she supported a kind of interim solution, hoping it could be found in a parking lot on city land.
Another Park Board Commissioner, Dave Demers, told CTV News he is hoping to hear more from park staff to figure out what the next solution could be.
“It’s Groundhog Day,” he said.