VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The shell game involving Vancouver’s most vulnerable people continues and the mayor is turning to Ottawa for help in putting an end to it.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart hopes to meet with federal and provincial housing ministers next week to discuss options for accelerating housing after an injunction was enforced to clear out the CRAB Park tent city on Tuesday.
“The only way to end homelessness is by building housing, not evicting homeless residents without a plan for where they go next,” Stewart says in a release.
Many of the campers who were forced out of their makeshift tent city at CRAB Park have since set up shop at Strathcona Park, saying they have nowhere else to go.
“If Ottawa came to the table, we would be able to drastically increase the amount of housing we’re able to provide,” Stewart adds. “ The City is ready with land, the Province is ready with funding and services, but as we’ve seen in the past, the best kinds of partnerships involve all levels of government and I’m hopeful Ottawa will join us.”
The shift from one park to another after an injunction was enforced by Vancouver Police on Tuesday was predictable, according to some advocates.
“The difficulty is that when people are moved they set up in a different place,” Jeremy Hunka with the Union Gospel Mission explains. “And because they feel vulnerable, they look to again congregate because there’s strength in numbers. They feel safer when there’s a community around.”
The VPD says 46 people were arrested by the end of the day Tuesday for refusing to leave the lot adjacent to the park.
Hunka says there are a number of factors currently working against the city’s most vulnerable population.
“The problem is that crisis upon crisis is stacking up on top of each other,” he explains. “There’s a pandemic, there’s a housing crisis, there’s an opioid crisis, there aren’t enough supports for people struggling with addiction or mental anguish, mental illness, substance use disorder. This is a huge, complicated problem.”
This is the third move for many of the campers, after dozens of people were forced out of Oppenheimer Park last month.
-With files from Greg Harper, CityNews Vancouver