VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Discarded needles, threats of violence, and stolen property near Strathcona Park have led to some neighbours saying they feel unsafe and one Vancouver councillor demanding faster government support.
Coun. Lisa Dominato says she’s been inundated with complaints from young families too scared to visit the park after hundreds of homeless people set up camp there.
“They’re feeling powerless and they’re feeling that all levels of government really need to step up and find immediate solutions to the challenges that they’re facing in the neighbourhood,” she says.
“They’re feeling unsafe in their neighbourhood. They’re very compassionate. They appreciate and understand the need for housing. However, there’s a tipping point and I think that’s important now they’re increasingly dealing with discarded needles, increased thefts and violence.”
Coun. Pete Fry claims several children have been threatened near the park’s encampment.
“We had one incident with a fellow who picked up a child in the waterpark and lifted him over his head and shook him, and then proceeded to go and fight with the water,” he tells NEWS 1130.
Fry says there was another instance where a couple was showing off their newborn baby to friends, and a man apparently threatened to do “obscene things” and “kill the baby with a stick.”
“[A man] threatened to gouge his eyes out for looking at him,” Fry says of another child. “Fortunately, [the boy] is young enough and small enough not be totally traumatized by that, although his mom is.”
He says he wants to see structured intervention measures, including providing support to individuals who want it. Fry says is also pushing for something to be done about crime near the park in hopes it will restore safety in the area.
A new 24-hour navigation centre was promised by the province to help people find housing and Dominato welcomes it, but says “We absolutely need it now. Not six months from now.”
The 60-bed centre managed by BC Housing is based on an enhanced shelter model used in other cities, including San Francisco, but it won’t be ready before the spring of next year. A location hasn’t been identified yet.
“They are intended to be nimble. They are intended to be established quickly, typically operated by a non-profit operator, but they provide a suite of wrap-around services, connect to housing, as well as medical and mental health support,” Dominato says.
She is calling on Premier John Horgan to expedite the process.
“We absolutely need to find a way to triage people, to connect them with housing and connect them with health and mental health and addiction services that they need,” Dominato says.
A second shelter is expected to be announced on Vancouver Island. The provincial government allocated $1.5 million in annual funding a year for the next three years to create the two centres.
While this year’s Metro Vancouver homeless count found a slight drop in numbers since 2017, Vancouver still has the highest number in the Lower Mainland. In March of 2020, 2,095 people identified as experiencing homelessness in Vancouver.
-With files from the Canadian Press