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Survey says Oppenheimer Park homeless camp is bad for business
The homeless camp in Vancouver's Oppenheimer Park is negatively impacting surrounding businesses, a new report by the Strathcona Business Improvement Association says.
"We decided to speak with our members and ask them what their experiences and perspectives on Oppenheimer Park are,” explained Theo Lamb, Executive Director of the Strathcona BIA.
The survey was sent to more than 850 businesses in the community and 59 responses were received.
"Some have been in the community for decades and have told us it's never been this bad,” Lamb told CTV News.
Vancouver police issued a safety warning about the park last month, after an officer was assaulted while helping city crews.
Eighty three per cent of respondents to the BIA survey want the park to return to a green space.
"Four major themes emerged from the survey results; safety, health and cleanliness, the impact to business and the access to the park,” said Lamb.
Staff at nearby homeless shelters say they also share those concerns.
"What we're doing as a region to tackle this life and death issue and this issue that causes people to suffer, isn't enough,” said Jeremy Hunka of the Union Gospel Mission.
Hunka says the danger with this kind of report is it being misunderstood by those who already have stigma towards the city's most vulnerable.
"The fears are projected on the people who are most at risk rather than the crisis itself which is the fact that there no housing,” explained Hunka.
He says it's clear both sides are fighting for the same cause.
"This is not a story about pitting business against the homeless community. In fact it's quite the opposite, we see the businesses embedded in that community and they see what the campers are going through every day,” said Lamb.
The BIA hopes its report will draw much needed attention to the problems. The population in the park has doubled since the start of the summer to more than 100.