The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation (VPB) will not be seeking an injunction to evict people from Oppenheimer Park.
Instead, the VPB announced today that it is requesting the formation of a “multi-jurisdictional” task force on homelessness.
The request was made at a press conference hosted by Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon.
“Everyone deserves a safe place to call home,” said Mackinnon. “We need to work together to build a community that ensures appropriate housing for all.”
The approach, he said, “must be comprehensive, compassionate, and holistic. We need both a short-term and a long-term action plan that will render unsanctioned encampments such as Oppenheimer unnecessary.”
Mackinnon spoke on behalf of the Park Board, who met last night to discuss options for Oppenheimer Park.
“We are requesting that the City establish a multi-jurisdictional task force to adequately address homelessness and inequity within our city,” he said. “This is not just a problem for Oppenheimer Park; homelessness is all of our problem.”
Noting that housing is “not within the mandate of the VPB, Mackinnon said the board is asking the city – as well as the provincial and federal government – “to acknowledge this as a crisis and to act immediately. This needs an unprecedented commitment of resources, now.”
Mackinnon confirmed that the Park Board has met several times during the summer and has received continuous updates on the situation in Oppenheimer Park.
In late August, campers living at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside received an eviction notice from the city.
At the time, the city said individuals would be relocated to “safe and stable” accommodations as BC Housing had “identified over 100 units where campers could stay.” Now, most of the campers have found other accommodation, although a few dozen still remain.
Earlier this week, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart called on the VPB to hand over control of the park for the city to handle.
Officials said the park has also become become a site for increased fire hazards. A Fire Chief’s order has been in place at the park since February, which sets a number of regulations to reduce fire hazards in the park but the city says ” compliance with that order has been limited. ”
There have been 17 fires in the park since February and Vancouver Police have also “expressed concern” about the increase of violent incidents in the area.
The city has said it “is continually working to meet the needs of those experiencing homelessness, including creating more affordable housing.”