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Tent communities in Vancouver, Victoria to be cleared out with provincial emergency order

Last Updated Apr 25, 2020 at 9:24 pm PDT

Summary

Those who call Vancouver's Oppenheimer Park home, will soon be forced to leave the site amid the COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. will be relocating homeless people living in tent cities to safe spaces in hotels, community centres

Staff will also be on hand to help people with mental health and addiction issues

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The B.C. government is planning to move those living in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park and in Topaz Park along Victoria’s Pandora Avenue into temporary housing units.

In an update Saturday morning, the province says the emergency order is aimed at protecting people’s health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Providing safe, temporary accommodations and wraparound services for people facing homelessness has been an urgent priority for this government for a long time,” Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Shane Simpson says in a release.

“Now more than ever, with the concurrent emergencies of the pandemic and the ongoing opioid crisis, it is time to implement long term housing solutions that take care of, and protect our most vulnerable people.”

So far, no one living in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer park or other homeless camps have tested positive for COVID-19, but the province says this order is the best chance to keep it that way.

About 1,700 spaces around the province and nearly 700 in Vancouver have already been secured using eight hotels and the Coal Harbour and *Roundhouse community centres.

The province says that staff will also be on hand to help people with mental health and addiction issues, and some laid-off hotel staff hired will be helping with cleaning and meal delivery.

B.C. says the goal is for this order to be a stepping stone to a permanent home and not be a pit stop during the crisis.

Community centres and some hotels will be cleaned, repaired and returned to their regular use, but the province will keep some as support spaces.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has been vocal about looking for a solution to the DTES since the pandemic began. He said it’s only “a matter of time” before the virus is reported in the neighbourhood, especially since many residents may be suffering from underlying health conditions.

He said he is “very pleased” with the move.

“The Province of British Columbia is using its powers and resources to provide much needed housing and wraparound supports and services to help our most vulnerable neighbours in the Downtown Eastside. These actions will help reduce overdoses and accommodate physical distancing during our two health emergencies,” he says.

He adds, “I’m glad that B.C.’s government is taking action on both these fronts to help bring stability and hope to our most vulnerable neighbours.”