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Strathcona residents plead with campaigning party leaders to address area homelessness

Last Updated Sep 29, 2020 at 6:11 am PDT

Summary

Strathcona residents are asking political party leaders to address the ongoing homeless encampment in the area

Strathcona Residents' Association says area has been ignored for too long

VP of Strathcona Residents' Association says plan should address individual needs of homeless encampment residents

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A frightening incident in Vancouver’s Strathcona Park Sunday is once again highlighting concerns around an ongoing encampment in the area, as residents continue to push for politicians for solutions.

Vancouver police say they were called to the area just before 6 p.m. for reports a man was chasing and threatening people with a chainsaw. Police have released few details about what happened, but have said the man apparently entered the park, home to a tent city of hundreds, and was eventually arrested.

It’s just the latest incident tied to the homeless encampment that has residents demanding change to address the ongoing tensions around the park.

Katie Lewis, vice president of the Strathcona Residents’ Association, says she wants to hear what campaigning provincial party leaders have to say about Strathcona’s unsupported tent city, as well as the crime and safety issues surrounding it.

“The number of homeless people continues just to rise and we’re really feeling that in our small little neighbourhood,” she tells NEWS 1130. “And when there’s a crisis here, you have to act nimbly and be flexible, and that’s something that government is not always the best at doing. But, you know, I believe this is an election issue, and we really feel they have to step up.”

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At this point, Lewis says locals want to see “any kind of plan, because it just doesn’t seem like there is one right now.”

Earlier this month, city council voted in favour with moving forward on a plan to look at ways to ease the homeless crisis in Vancouver after an emergency meeting was spurred by ongoing concerns around Strathcona Park.

Staff are to look at options to “accelerate the creation of emergency housing” and report back on “the feasibility and cost” of each by Oct. 2.

However, Lewis and others say a plan is needed now, adding short-term and long-term action is what they’re looking for.

“If you look at the number, the province actually has spent a lot of money on housing. But the problem is, in my opinion, we’re just playing catch up, which is very painful,” she says.

Identifying needs

While “any kind of plan” is what residents are looking for right now, Lewis says specifics include identifying the individual needs of the people who live in Strathcona Park and developing a plan based on those needs.

“From there, I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all situation, they’re going to have people that have different needs,” she explains.

“But I think, very importantly, there needs to be wrap-around services because this isn’t just about homes, it intersects with mental illness and addiction and I think we have to look at it holistically when we’re trying to think about what to do in the current situation.”

Lewis says the neighbourhood residents believe the current situation “wouldn’t be tolerated” elsewhere in the province, and that Strathcona “has had a long legacy of being ignored by our political leaders.”

“And we know that if this encampment was in Kitsilano or in Shaughnessy, it wouldn’t be there. We’re feeling ignored and we’re feeling frustrated.”

Meanwhile, a rally is planned for 7:30 a.m. Tuesday along Prior Street, between Gore Avenue and Glen Drive, to demand immediate government action and support to ensure the safety of everyone in Strathcona.

-With files from Lisa Steacy