Strathcona Park homeless encampment finally comes to an end

Apr 30 2021, 7:28 pm

The Strathcona Park homeless encampment has come to an end, nearly a year after it first began as remnants of the previous encampments at Oppenheimer Park and Crab Park.

According to a Vancouver Park Board bulletin, over the last three weeks, 184 people at the camp were successfully moved out of the park and into accommodations.

The deadline to vacate the premises was 10 am today, but the Park Board notes that a “small number” of tents and temporary shelters remain, and they are “continuing to work with the remaining people on other options.” It is unclear when these remaining campers will leave.

An order issued by Park Board general manager Donnie Rosa earlier this month stated that all existing tents, temporary shelters, and structures must also be removed.

A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the City of Vancouver, Park Board, and the provincial government on the way forward to put an end to the encampment through the provision of indoor accommodations, and prevent future encampments.

Two temporary shelters at the former Army & Navy store at 15-27 West Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside and a city-owned warehouse building at 875 Terminal Avenue are now housing the individuals. Both shelters have a combined capacity of 120 beds.

All levels of government have also been acquiring hotel properties for the longer term need to transition these individuals from shelters to supportive housing.

But the prolonged duration of the camp in the neighbourhood has led to resentment amongst area residents, who have reported a spike in property theft, vandalism, and violent assaults. The camp itself has been a hotspot for homicides, sexual and violent assaults, drug trafficking, and stolen goods, and there have been several instances of fires.

The Park Board and its elected body of commissioners have come under fire for its approach with handling the encampment. Some residents believe the latest actions are too little and too late, amounting to the Park Board failing to learn its lesson from the previous Oppenheimer Park, when a majority voted against an injunction in September 2019 to clear the encampment.

Oppenheimer Park was only cleared after the provincial government ordered the dismantling of the encampment under a COVID-19 emergency health order. Before finding their place in Strathcona Park, the campers subsequently relocated from Oppenheimer Park to Crab Park, but this was short-lived after the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority successfully sought an injunction.

With the encampment discontinued, the entire east side of the park will now be fenced off to allow for cleaning and remediation.

The west side of the park was previously closed several weeks earlier to allow for repairs, and it is now open for public use.

The Park Board states the warming tents and hygiene facilities first installed in January will be shut down today and dismantled within days.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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