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Action needed now to prevent spread of coronavirus in Downtown Eastside: Vancouver mayor

Last Updated Mar 22, 2020 at 10:34 am PDT

FILE (Photo by Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)

Vancouver's mayor says now is the time to protect people in the Downtown Eastside

Kennedy Stewart has outlined eight areas where supports should be increased for people who are homeless

The mayor says specific action is already underway for people living in Oppenheimer Park

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver’s mayor has sent out an urgent call for more federal and provincial government help in protecting people in the Downtown Eastside from COVID-19.

Kennedy Stewart says they are a vulnerable population, given there are about three thousand homeless people and seven thousand others living in rooming houses.

“We need to be aggressive in how we address this. We need shelter, we need food, and we need safe supplies so people can self isolate,” Stewart says.

He’s identified eight key areas that need to be bolstered to help the community, including facilitating the delivery of prescriptions and creating new guidelines to enable social distancing at overdose prevention sites.

He says specific action is already underway for people living in Oppenheimer Park.

“The city has already started to identify buildings where we can start housing those that are the most vulnerable, and that’s going to start rolling out over the next week.”

Since it’s almost impossible for homeless people and rooming house residents to self-isolate, he says it’s essential to find additional shelter space.

“We vast majority of these people can not self isolate if they suspect they are infected, so we need to provide space for people to do that. When people become infected, we need places for people to self-quarantine,” Stewart says.

He adds he wants all evictions banned, and he wants to ban all sales of Rooming Houses temporarily.

“We cannot fail our most vulnerable neighbors. We must act now.”


-With files from Nikitha Martins