Plan to empty Vancouver homeless camp outlined by city and park board
Published Monday, December 14, 2020 12:20PM PST Last Updated Monday, December 14, 2020 7:58PM PST
VANCOUVER -- The City of Vancouver and the park board have released a plan to shut down a growing homeless encampment in Strathcona Park that has led to tensions in the surrounding neighbourhood.
Two properties, including the Jericho Hostel and the 2400 Motel, have been identified as sites to house people from the large tent city.
Sandra Singh, the city's general manager of arts, culture, and community services, told a news conference Monday that the city is looking to find two more properties to assist in the housing effort.
Singh said the city wants to help people find a solution that works for them after some living in the encampment expressed concerns about living in traditional shelters.
“We'll be having conversations with each person in the camp, individually,” Singh said. “We definitely think housing is the first priority.”
The city wants people to leave the park voluntarily and there are no timelines for those living there to move into the new shelter spots, with Singh adding that the city is waiting for funding from higher levels of government.
Once those indoor spaces are available, park board general manager Donnie Rosa said it will enforce a bylaw that prohibits overnight camping. The park board will also continue to enforce bylaws that don't allow tents after 7 a.m. in areas that have not been designated as shelter areas.
A spokeswoman for those living in the park could not immediately be reached for comment.
The encampment at Strathcona is the latest in a series of tent cities that have gone up in the last six years, but the city did not fully answer how it would prevent new camps.
“The underlying solution (to homelessness) is housing,” said Singh, replying to questions about future tent cities. “So we have a lot of work underway at the city in partnership with BC Housing and with the federal government to develop more affordable, supportive and social housing.”
Rosa said the park board will look at closer enforcement of bylaws on camping.
Crime has been a problem in the park and police have reported a jump in the number of calls for break-ins and violent offences in the area.
Camil Dumont, the park board chair, said in a statement that there needs to be a resolution and they are on track to find one.
“In order to get there, safer, dry, warm, indoor shelter for the many people currently stuck outdoors needs to be made available. Securing that option is a significant challenge.”
Dumont said the goal is to make sure Strathcona Park will soon be open for everyone.
“We also need to help ensure people are as safe as possible in the interim, in the park, and in the community at large.”
BC Housing and the city are working together to develop interim essential services for people sleeping in the park, such as warming tents and showers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2020.