Vancouver City Council signals new homeless shelter at 285-bed Jericho Beach hostel

Oct 9 2020, 7:04 pm

Two low-end accommodations properties in Vancouver will quickly become new emergency shelters for the homeless.

This was part of Vancouver City Council’s direction on Thursday night that passed Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s motion to spend up to $30 million for emergency homeless housing.

The inclusion of the heritage Jericho Hostel and the 2400 Motel properties as emergency housing for the homeless came as an amendment moved by COPE councillor Jean Swanson, and seconded by Stewart.

“I’m thinking that we need to house all 750 unhoused, unsheltered Vancouver residents and that this is key. If we only house a few of them, then the other ones will go to various encampments because they have no alternative,” said Swanson.

“One of the first things you do for triage is you provide housing with a locked door and a warm bed and a shower. For the folks who are wanting to stand up for taxpayers, I don’t think there’s any better way to stand up for taxpayers than to get housing for all of our unhoused people because every single study supported by government shows it is way cheaper to house people than to abandon them on the street.”

hostelling international jericho hostel

HI Vancouver Jericho Beach at 1515 Discovery Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

The Jericho Hostel at 1515 Discovery Street is owned by the municipal government, under the jurisdiction of the Vancouver Park Board. The property in West Point Grey is wedged between Jericho Beach Park and Locarno Beach.

This three-storey hostel building — featuring 285 beds in 14 dormitories and 10 family/private rooms — was originally part of the barracks of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Jericho Beach Station in the area, which significantly expanded during the Second World War.

Hostelling International has been operating the property for several decades, but it has been temporarily closed ever since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

hostelling international jericho hostel

HI Vancouver Jericho Beach at 1515 Discovery Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

hostelling international jericho hostel

HI Vancouver Jericho Beach at 1515 Discovery Street, Vancouver. (Hostelling International)

Another city-owned property identified as a homeless shelter is the 2400 Motel at 2400 Kingsway, located at the western corner of the intersection of Kingsway and East 33rd Avenue.

This 1950s-era motor inn has 65 rooms scattered in a number of single-storey buildings in a car-oriented complex. About five years ago, the federal government leased the property as temporary accommodations for Syrian refugees.

2400 motel

Exterior of the 2400 Motel at 2400 Kingsway, Vancouver. (2400 Motel)

Several other amendments to Kennedy’s original motion also passed, including an amendment moved by independent councillor Rebecca Bligh and seconded by Green Party councillor Pete Fry.

Their motion establishes a framework for the “temporary Pandemic Shelters” that replace unmanaged encampments, specifically Strathcona Park, with consideration for safe, indoor facilities. This includes the consideration of shelter locations approximately at least 300 metres away from sensitive sites such as schools, daycares, parks, playing fields, and community centres, as well as the inclusion of adequate security. Such shelters should also be enhanced as a “navigation centre-styled transition toward permanent housing or hotels.”

NPA councillors Melissa De Genova and Sarah Kirby-Yung also added a further framework that deters a shelter or encampment from being located in Chinatown, given the district’s pre-existing challenges that are now exacerbated by the pandemic.

If there is any consideration for locating a shelter or encampment in Chinatown, their approved amendment calls on city staff to perform “robust” consultation with stakeholders, local businesses, and the community. City staff will also examine and report back to city council on the potential impacts on the city’s other efforts and goals of revitalizing Chinatown through obtaining the UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the district.

vancouver chinatown parkade

Exterior of the city-owned Chinatown Parkade in Vancouver. (Google Maps)

Local businesses and groups raised concerns after city staff listed the Chinatown Parkade as a potential location option for an encampment, with each of the six parkade levels accommodating an encampment of up to 40 tents.

“This is a community that is basically on life support and has a lot of existing challenges prior to COVID,” said Kirby-Yung. “It’s losing its living heritage… and Chinatown, in my opinion, we need to put a lot more attention as a council and prioritize really supporting them because we have lost the balance between trying to ensure they are healthy and viable in the short term versus the longer term work such as UNESCO. Right now the community is just in crisis mode.”

“This community needs a show of support and a signal from council that they matter, and right now they’re not feeling that.”

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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