Protesters 'bring the tent city' to city hall amid COVID-19 housing meeting
VANCOUVER -- As councillors met for a marathon meeting, protesters gathered inside and outside city hall.
"If the city council can't get to tent city, we can bring the tent city to them, and let them have a little experience of what it's like to have a tent city right in your face," said Robert Petrie, a former tent city resident.
A handful of peaceful protesters gathered inside the foyer with a loud speaker and mic on Thursday, as councillors in chambers listened to dozens of speakers have their say about the tent city in Strathcona Park.
Some 400 tents have been pitched since the start of the summer in that park, and many have had enough.
"We want housing for all," said Kirsten Fuhrmann, who lives in the tent city. "This is a problem that needs to stop being overlooked."
Fuhrmann is an artist but these days she's instead spending her time protesting and fighting for housing.
"We're desperate for housing," she said. "A lot of us want to get back into the work force and be productive members of society."
Peter Portuondo lost his job due to the pandemic and found himself living in the tent city.
"The only way stuff gets in our society, in our world, is by protesting. Then we get a little bit of rights from our government which seems to be a backwards way," he told CTV News.
Vancouver police were called to city hall to deal with the handful of protesters inside. They were eventually escorted outside, without incident.
One thing tent city residents and those who live around the park seem to agree on is this process is taking too long.
"This is not a new problem and yet solutions are only being explored at this stage," said Jamie MacLaren who lives nearby. "It's something we're learning to deal with, I think. But it's not sustainable."
Portuondo said it will take more than just those neighbours protesting. He wants to see the rest of the city rally around everyone in Strathcona.
"We have to kind of gather together. We're all in the same community," he said.
City councillors voted unanimously in favour of a motion put forward by the mayor, though they did make amendments.
The $30-million investment into an emergency COVID-19 pandemic housing plan will go forward and city staff have been directed to find locations and immediately get temporary pandemic shelters up and running, working alongside Vancouver Coastal Health.
They will work to also find permanent solutions, but the intent is to get everyone out of Strathcona Park.