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Community garden, growing tent city coexist peacefully in Strathcona Park

Last Updated Jul 4, 2020 at 8:52 pm PST

(Kareem Gouda, NEWS 1130 photo)

The president of the Cottonwood Community garden estimates there are now 150 tents set up in the park

Despite growing numbers, the relationship between the garden and the camp has been reciprocal and respectful

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A community garden in Strathcona Park is experiencing fewer problems — not more — as an encampment of people who are homeless grows.

Tents were set up in the park after campers were evicted from a parking lot near CRAB park by the Port Authority on June 16.

The president of the Cottonwood Community Garden estimates there are now 150 tents set up in the park.

“From the very beginning we’ve had a good relationship with them, we went over right away to speak to one of the organizers,” explains Beth McLaren.

“If we do have issues and make an appointment and talk to her she’s been very receptive in coming up with solutions.”

McLaren says some gardeners are concerned with the growing numbers, but the relationship between the garden and the camp has been reciprocal and respectful.

“From the very beginning when they came they’ve respected the garden, and we want them to respect the garden, that’s very important to us,” McLaren says.

“We’ve tried to be good neighbours. They’ve got a kitchen set up so we said they could hook up a hose to our water source for the kitchen.”

The garden has also offered wood from its brush pile to campers, which helps decrease waste.

The camp has set up a security patrol, and a medical tent and the city has brought in extra garbage cans and Porta Potties.

“We’ve tried to help where we can, where we’re able to,” Mc Laren says. “The camp itself feels quite stable and well-organized”

She notes there has been some worry that the camp could impact the garden and its operation.

“But so far, nothing has happened that is dangerous or has us calling the police,” McLaren says.

“We’ve had people coming through, we’ve had drug users, we’ve had people wanting to camp in the garden for years. The garden’s been there since 1991. So, we’ve had these problems, and I wouldn’t say we have more of them since the camp’s been there — if anything we have less.”

She adds the gardeners understand the camp is there because people don’t have anywhere else to go, and

“The majority of gardeners support the camp being there, they support what they’re asking for — which is to find a permanent place for housing or a permanent place to have a tent city until housing is found. We support their cause, we know that they’re homeless and are just looking for permanent housing.”