City of Vancouver fire officials order immediate removal of all East Hastings tents and structures

Jul 25 2022, 11:40 pm

For dire safety reasons, Vancouver Fire Rescue has ordered the immediate removal of all tents and structures on the sidewalks of East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside.

In a bulletin issued by the City of Vancouver this afternoon, the order for the removal of the homeless encampment was made by Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry.

The encampment of densely situated tents and structures formed quickly over the last few weeks, starting on July 1. The encampment occupies the sidewalks along East Hastings Street in the general vicinity between Main Street and Carrall Street.

“Should a fire occur in the area in its current condition, it would be catastrophic, putting lives at risk and jeopardizing hundreds of units of much-needed housing,” reads the bulletin.

“The situation on East Hastings Street near Main Street in the DTES has grown significantly more unsafe due in part to increased structures and decreased accessibility.”

east hastings street downtown eastside dtes homeless encampment july 21 2022

The Downtown Eastside homeless encampment on East Hastings Street, near Main Street, as of July 21, 2022. (submitted)

east hastings street downtown eastside dtes homeless encampment july 21 2022

The Downtown Eastside homeless encampment on East Hastings Street, near Main Street, as of July 21, 2022. (submitted)

east hastings street downtown eastside dtes homeless encampment july 21 2022

The Downtown Eastside homeless encampment on East Hastings Street, near Main Street, as of July 21, 2022. (submitted)

The encampment exploded in size after Vancouver Police officers stopped accompanying City maintenance crews as of July 1, during their daily task of removing debris and garbage on streets. This pivot away from police accompanying City crews followed growing calls from activists, who accused the crews of dismantling and discarding vacant tents and personal belongings left on the streets.

“Structures-removal planning had been underway to increase street safety, passage for sidewalks and roadways, increase access to buildings and reduce fire hazards,” continues the bulletin.

“While today’s order will expedite this process, the situation is complex and the City will continue to take a thoughtful approach that considers the needs of those sheltering outdoors as we do this work.”

The municipal government adds it will work with the community, non-profit organizations, and government organizations to expedite the removal of the structures and to offer added support for those shelter outdoors, including day storage of belongings, more public washrooms, more misting and hand-washing statins, and more water fountains.

In a separate statement, Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart says he “completely supports Chief’s Fry’s decision to make the area safe, but also realize the stress and difficulty this order will cause those living in the affected area.”

“My top priority is the safety and security of all Vancouver residents, especially vulnerable neighbours. Over the past four year we have secured funding to build the housing and services we need to reduce homelessness and support those suffering with mental health and addictions issues… Despite these investments and effort, it is clear that demand for high quality, supportive housing still outstrips supply — especially during hot summer days when many residents cannot live safely inside SROs with poor ventilation.”

While the encampment’s tents and structures pose an immediate fire safety hazard, there have also been growing complaints from area residents and businesses over the escalating public disorder, crime, and health safety issues.

An encampment also exists at Crab Park on the waterfront, just north of Gastown and the railyard. However, the Vancouver Park Board’s injunction to clear the Crab Park encampment was not approved by a BC judge in January 2022.

east hastings street downtown eastside dtes homeless encampment july 21 2022

The Downtown Eastside homeless encampment on East Hastings Street, near Main Street, as of July 21, 2022. (submitted)

east hastings street downtown eastside dtes homeless encampment july 21 2022

The Downtown Eastside homeless encampment on East Hastings Street, near Main Street, as of July 21, 2022. (submitted)

east hastings street downtown eastside dtes homeless encampment july 21 2022

The Downtown Eastside homeless encampment on East Hastings Street, near Main Street, as of July 21, 2022. (submitted)

east hastings street downtown eastside dtes homeless encampment july 21 2022

The Downtown Eastside homeless encampment on East Hastings Street, near Main Street, as of July 21, 2022. (submitted)

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