Hundreds of residents of Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood protested on Tuesday morning, urging for the government to take action on encampments and those dealing with homelessness.
The demonstration was hosted by “Safe Homes for All,” a group of Strathcona residents that occupy all forms of housing, including owned homes, rented homes, care homes, co-op housing, social housing, RVs, and tents.
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The group says that over the past few months, their community has grown more concerned over an increase in crime and other public safety issues.
“In recent months, hundreds of our unhoused neighbours have been repeatedly displaced into unsafe and unsupported park spaces,” says the group on its website. “Our community has also experienced a steady increase in personal crime, property crime and public health hazards.”
Safe Homes for All says that they attribute this issue to “government action and neglect,” noting that they have yet to see progress from “any level of government” in nearly four months.
The demonstration took place on Tuesday morning between 7:30 and 8:30 am along Prior Street. Participants were encouraged to bring signs with slogans such as “safe housing is a human right,” “children deserve safe space,” “we all deserve to be safe,” and “homeless lives matter.”
Organizers also stressed that the intent of the rally was not to block traffic but rather to raise awareness and attention from all levels of government. Households participating were also required to wear masks and to physically distance themselves from others.
Safe Homes for All says they want action from all three levels of government, as well as representatives speaking to campers and nearby residents.
“An unmanaged, unsupported encampment of 400 people is not safe for anyone. We demand immediate on-site consultation of all people who are camping in Strathcona Park now.”
The group also says that more than 2,000 residents have signed a petition with the intention or support of withholding property taxes from the City of Vancouver. Property taxes are due on September 30, one day after the protest.
While homelessness has long been an issue in Vancouver, residents in the downtown core have seemingly grown more concerned over the past few months.
In early June, a separate group of Vancouver residents petitioned against the relocation of Oppenheimer Park residents, arguing that the move had spread many of the problems seen in the park across the downtown core.
The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) was also required to increase patrols in Yaletown after a “significant” number of concerns raised by residents.
Prior to Tuesday’s demonstration, a man was also arrested in Strathcona Park after allegedly chasing and threatening people with a chainsaw.