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Tent city set up in Port of Vancouver parking lot after Oppenheimer evacuated

Last Updated May 9, 2020 at 10:58 pm PDT

Tents being set up in the parking lot adjacent to CRAB Park on May 8, 2020 (Travis Prasad, CityNews photo)

Fiona York with the Carnegie Community Action Project says ten tents have been set up by people with nowhere else to go

She says police, fire and port personnel are aware of the situation

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A sacred fire has been lit in a parking lot adjacent to CRAB Park on Vancouver’s waterfront, where a small tent city for people who are homeless was set up Friday evening.

Fiona York with the Carnegie Community Action Project says ten tents have been set up by people with nowhere else to go.

“Some people did sleep here last night,” York says.

“There’s tents that are spaced out, people are not crowded. There’s access to some limited sense of safety and facilities.”

A few of the people who have set up tents in the parking lot were previously encamped in Oppenheimer Park, which was completely cleared of occupants and fenced by noon Saturday.

“There are a few people from Oppenheimer, though most people were housed,” York explains.

“It’s people who don’t have anywhere else to be and have found this to be a better and safer space than where they were before. The order to evacuate Oppenheimer didn’t really address the whole population of people who are homeless or underhoused. One of the repercussions of Oppenheimer being evacuated is that there’s less and less spaces for people to actually be.”

Initially, some tents were set up in CRAB Park itself, according to a statement from the City of Vancouver.

“There are currently no tents in CRAB Park. This morning Park Board Rangers spoke with eight individuals who had set up tents in CRAB Park and requested they leave, to which they complied.”

The parking lot, however, is federally owned, meaning the park board does not have jurisdiction.

York says the decision to set up somewhere outside of the city’s jurisdiction was both strategic and symbolic.

“It’s a federally owned parking lot, and we basically are calling on the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] which says people have a right to shelter,” she says, adding the right to safety and security for vulnerable people in Vancouver is urgent amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The demand is for housing for everyone who needs it, it shouldn’t have just been targeted for Oppenheimer. It should have been for everyone, or at least for the people who are the most vulnerable.”

She says the open space allows for physical distancing and some self-isolation, an option she says in unavailable in shelters or SROs.

“None of the options that are available for people right now are really addressing the public health issues, and allowing people to follow public health directives.”

The Vancouver Police Department says it is aware of the tents and is monitoring the situation.

York says Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and port security have shown up, but no one has asked or ordered anyone to leave.

In a statement to NEWS 1130, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority says those who have set up tents are trespassing.

“We are aware of a number of people and tents set up on a parking lot within the port authority‚Äôs jurisdiction. While we respect the right to peacefully protest, we have informed this group that they are trespassing on port authority property and will need to vacate. We are in contact with the local police and are monitoring the situation.”