On Sunday, homeless and activist campers from the Downtown Eastside’s Oppenheimer Park made attempts to set-up a new camp near Stanley Park’s famous totem poles.
It prompted city officials to order Park Board rangers and the Vancouver Police to blockade the park entrance at 8:30 p.m. There have been a number of major health and safety issues with the the Oppenheimer Park camp compounded by this weekend’s series of suspicious fires in Stanley Park.
“Because of concerns about this situation and in addition the several fires which occurred in the Park over the last 48 hours, staff and VPD have closed the entrance to the Park on the north side of Georgia Street,” said the City in a statement.
The City of Vancouver has also applied for an injunction in BC Supreme Court to end the encampment at Oppenheimer Park. It will be going to court today with fire and police department backed evidence that health and safety conditions have deteriorated to a critical point.
According to The Province, thorough and frequent inspections by fire crews and police found the following health and safety issues at Oppenheimer Park:
- many incidents of verbal threats and violent attacks, with weapons including firearms, shovels, bats and axes
- numerous thefts
- open drug use, needle exchange and drug trafficking
- open flames and smoking inside tents and structures next to combustible and flammable materials
- the high presence of bed bugs
- the scattering of used needles and condoms on park grounds
- buckets of urine and feces inside tents, kept over a long period of time
To address the issue of homelessness and find shelters for Oppenheimer Park campers, the municipal government announced last week it would immediately open 40 new shelter spaces at the City-owned building at 900 Pacific Street (formerly A Kettle of Fish restaurant), 30 additional spaces at Union Gospel Mission, and establish 157 units of temporary homeless housing at Quality Inn (1335 Howe Street).
Later this fall, three new permanent housing sites will open at 2465 Fraser Street (near Broadway), 111 Princess Avenue and 951 Boundary Road (the Historic Taylor Manor). Altogether, all three housing projects will provide nearly 300 additional units of social housing.
Feature Image: Stanley Park totem poles via Shutterstock