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Vancouver Park Board to clear half of Strathcona homeless camp in bid to reclaim park

Strathcona Park. (CityNews photo)
Summary

Vancouver Park Board has put Strathcona Park encampment residents on notice

People living in the west half of Strathcona Park encampment have until Wednesday, Feb. 17 to clear out

Park Board's push to reclaim part of Strathcona Park comes more than a week after arrest of suspect in murder of senior

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver Park Board is reclaiming half of Strathcona Park where a large homeless encampment was set up several months ago.

A notice posted along fencing at the park dated Feb. 10 gives campers until 10 a.m. next Wednesday, Feb. 17 to have their items, shelters, tents, and structures removed from the west side of the park. It says “No temporary shelters permitted” in that portion of Strathcona Park, which is greyed out on a map featured on the notice.

The order from the general manager of the Park Board says the move is being taken to allow the Park Board to “remediate and return this area to recreational use and programming for all park users.”

It’s not exactly clear why this is being done now but the move comes just more than a week after one of two murder suspects was arrested in the park.

The so-called park “leader” was arrested at the encampment in connection with a shocking home invasion and assault of a senior at her home near Queen Elizabeth Park on Jan. 31. The 78-year-old died of her injuries just days later.

Related video: Calls to dismantle Strathcona Park encampment

The incident renewed concerns many people living around Strathcona have been voicing for months.

Last month, the province said it was working with the city to find accommodation for the campers, with the goal of securing enough space for everyone by the end of April.

“But again, it is the goal of both the City and the Province to move anyone experiencing homelessness in Vancouver into long-term, sustainable housing to break the cycle of homelessness,” a statement from BC Housing reads.

In September, protesters took to Prior Street to demand a sustainable solution to address the park and the encampment. Organizers at the time insisted their efforts were not about forcing their problems onto another part of the city.

The tent city at Strathcona Park is believed to be home to a couple of hundred people. They set up their encampment in the green space in mid June after they were pushed out of CRAB Park on the waterfront.

Before that, the large group had been living at Oppenheimer Park on the Downtown Eastside for years. The Oppenheimer Park tent city was cleared in May, displacing more than 300 people.

Meanwhile, a new survey from Insights West finds many Vancouverites — 85 per cent — believe something should be done about the tent city. Forty-nine per cent believe moving residents into affordable housing is the best option while 21 per cent would rather the park board get an injunction and have police clear the park’s residents.