VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Residents in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood say waiting until next year for a solution doesn’t help them as they continue to deal with a growing homeless camp in their community.
Provincial and municipal governments have announced housing solutions near Strathcona Park, but they aren’t expected until spring.
Katie Lewis with the Strathcona Residents’ Association says hundreds of homes for the homeless down the road doesn’t help the residents now as the crisis in the park escalates.
“It’s not nearly enough. It’s not soon enough, and it won’t affect our immediate situation at all,” she says.
“We keep just being told that we have to wait, we have to wait, but we’re seeing increased incidences with children. A number of children have had a lot of verbal assaults and some physical even in Strathcona, and we are saying that’s unacceptable. And next week school starts.”
Ninety-eight temporary modular homes are expected to be built in the Strathcona neighbourhood and 350 permanent units on city-owned land will be announced in the coming months.
Over 10 weeks, Lewis says a handful of campers has grown to hundreds, and now the park’s septic system is failing.
“We could be dealing with an entire septic system backup any day now,” Lewis says. “The immediate need is not just winter is coming, the actual systems in the park are breaking down.”
She says this is not fair to anyone and suggests an emergency disaster relief-type camp should be set up immediately, perhaps at the empty site where the new St. Paul’s Hospital will be built.
“We’re growing by the day as incidences and a lot of the crime against residents continue to escalate, it’s a worrying situation,” she says. “We’re demanding action, you know, enough is enough.”
Last month, Vancouver Coun. Lisa Dominato and Coun. Pete Fry both spoke out about rising tensions in the area, including alleged threats against children in the neighbourhood.
-With files from the Canadian Press