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Rally calls for more housing, no forced removal of campers from Oppenheimer

Last Updated May 8, 2020 at 6:49 am PDT

FILE -- Fencing surrounds a portion of a homeless camp at Oppenheimer Park as a man disassembles a tent, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Protesters said offering housing to people who live in the park bypasses those in the streets, shelters and SROs

So far, 205 people have voluntarily left the park but almost a hundred remain

The province's deadline for evacuation of the park is May 9 at noon

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — More than 200 people have moved out of Oppenheimer Park, but people rallying on the Downtown Eastside Thursday say housing is needed now for the hundreds more who are homeless in the area.

A group of protesters blocked the intersection of Main Street and East Hastings Thursday, saying the plan to house occupants of the park bypasses the vulnerable people in shelters, SROs and on the streets who urgently need safe shelter.

“They aren’t the only homeless people down here and we’ve been trying to get this across,” said organizer Erica Grant.

Grant said she was at Thursday’s rally to fight for people like her son Duncan, who died in a Downtown Eastside SRO last month.

“As soon as they had a lockdown of all the SROs down here. My son fell victim the very first night. He used in his room and he died alone,” she said.

Even though her son had housing, it was not safe or adequate, according to Grant.

“It was falling apart, there was rust coming out of the pipes, there’s two working washrooms and I think 180 tenants,” she said, adding she is worried that staff may have ignored her requests to check on her son.

“We don’t have proper housing providers here, we don’t have proper housing.”

RELATED: Relief for some, anxiety for others as deadline to clear campers from Oppenheimer looms

The protesters said amid the pandemic, housing should first go to those who are older or who have preexisting health conditions regardless of where they live.

“I’m not going to stop until people are housed,” Grant said.

The rally was also held to protest the construction of fences around the park, and to argue against the forced removal of people when the Saturday deadline hits.

According to BC Housing, 205 people had moved out of the park and into hotels or other accommodations by Thursday.

In 2019, there were 2,223 people who were homeless in Vancouver.