BC government aiming to end Strathcona Park homeless encampment by April

Jan 22 2021, 3:12 am

The provincial government is looking to put an end to the Strathcona Park homeless encampment by April by relocating campers to temporary indoor shelter arrangements.

“BC Housing and the City of Vancouver are working with our partners to create accommodation for people experiencing homelessness, including those living in encampments such as Strathcona Park,” the Ministry of the Attorney General told Daily Hive Urbanized in an email.

“We will be making accommodation options available over the coming months with the joint goal of opening enough spaces for people at the encampment by the end of April. The City of Vancouver is working with the Province to look at a variety of options to create new spaces,” continued the Ministry.

“These will be added to the stock of accommodation options and these additional spaces will provide a variety of options to meet people’s needs.”

This direction is supported by Vancouver Park Board commissioners who decided in mid-December 2020 to provide Park Board staff with the tool of an injunction against campers. However, an injunction to enforce the dismantling of the encampment can only be used after indoor shelter locations are secured.

In October 2020, Vancouver City Council approved a $30-million emergency spending measure to create quick shelters for the homeless. This includes the use of the 285-bed Jericho Hostel at 1515 Discovery Street next to Jericho Beach in West Point Grey, and the city-owned 2400 Motel at 2400 Kingsway, which has 65 rooms.

The Park Board has indicated its support for the temporary uses of the Jericho Hostel, which has been leased to Hostelling International for decades.

It is estimated there are hundreds of campers in the park in just as many tents.

As an interim measure until the shelters are ready, new facilities including a warming tent, washroom, and shower were added by governments over the past weekend.

The April timeline would bring the lifespan of this encampment to just under a year, as it first began in the middle of June 2020 after a court injunction by Vancouver Fraser Port Authority disbanded the short-lived Crab Park encampment, which was a relocation of the Oppenheimer Park encampment.

“It is the goal of both the City and the Province to move anyone experiencing homelessness in Vancouver into long-term, sustainable housing to break the cycle of homelessness,” continued the Ministry.

However, neighbourhood residents have been calling for levels of government to take quicker, decisive actions to end the encampment.

Residents have taken issue to deteriorating levels of public safety as the camp grew in size over the past eight months.

Moreover, the general public has been unable to use Strathcona Park’s fields, baseball diamond, skate park, and playground.

“The wet, squalid and unsafe conditions in the encampment have increasingly become more pronounced. The multiple deaths, assaults, thefts, and unsafe conditions for both campers and the broader Strathcona community are unacceptable and we expect more from our leaders in addressing these complex and tough issues,” reads a statement from the Strathcona Residents Association in response to the provincial government’s April timeline.

“For too long, government let activists run the show and exclude help from the camp. We ask the Park Board and the City to take a proactive, hands-on role in the park to manage services, sanitation, crime, COVID-19 and potential expansion. We look forward to the Park Board acting on its commitment to contain the encampment and reclaim sections of the park in the very near future.”

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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