VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Business owners in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood say the rise of homeless campers in Oppenheimer Park is having an impact.
A recent survey by the Business Improvement Association shows many of the respondents are worried about safety in the area.
Executive Director Theo Lamb says conditions must improve in the area, not only for businesses, but also for those who are camping in the park.
“There’s still not enough access to bathrooms,” says Lamb. “There are serious sanitation issues out front of businesses and the back alleys.”
Over 80 per cent of respondents agreed Oppenheimer Park should be returned to its original purpose as a green and social space, but they also want the campers to be safe as well.
This comes after a year of the park being used as a homeless camp, which has an estimated 130 people living there.
Lamb says in the past seven months, they have stepped patrols of the area, dedicating 42 per cent of total patrol time around the park.
“There’s been an impact on their customer base,” she says. “Whether that’s directly as a result of park activity or activity that’s sprawled out from the park, we’ve seen a change in the community.”
The top issues listed in the survey are cleanliness, safety, business impact and park access.
“The Strathcona BIA serves over 850 business members in Vancouver’s Eastside community, including many directly surrounding the park,” says Emma Carscadden, President of the BIA and a Strathcona business member. “It was time to hear from them directly on how park activity has impacted their ability to participate in the community and the local economy.
The BIA says they want to see the city come up with a plan to return the park to its original use.
Of the business respondents to the survey, 17 per cent are open to the idea of a city-sanctioned tent city.
– With files from Bailey Nicolson