VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The deadline to decamp Strathcona park is just a week away, and while some people are starting to move into housing about 200 remain in tents.
BC housing says eleven people left the park after being offered “multiple indoor housing options” on Thursday, with more expected to follow Friday.
Katie Lewis is a member of the Strathcona Residents Association and says in the past few days she has seen RVs get towed, and a lot of workers making contact with the campers.
“There still are an awful lot of tents there, and in the last month or so it seems like there are more tents than ever,” she says.
Despite this, Lewis says representatives from the city and provincial governments are confident the park will be empty of tents by April 30.
“We’re optimistic that that deadline will be met and we’re hoping that, you know, we’re hopeful, and we’re hoping that everything will go peacefully,” Lewis says.
She does worry that some people will not leave.
“Every person has been offered housing, we have been assured of that,” she explains.
“However, some people feel that it’s not sufficient to meet their needs, and there’s also an activist element in the camp, who probably have very little interest in taking any of the housing offered.”
Coordinator of the Carnegie Community Action Project and housing advocate Fiona York says she’s seen Strathcona Park residents move to the offered housing only to wind back up in the park due to the housing being an improper fit.
“A lot of the housing is in a couple of hotels. And it’s really that one-size-fits-all type of housing, where people don’t have a lot of rights,” she says, adding some report issues with safety and have faced a number of restrictions that cannot be addressed because they are not granted tenancy status.
“So there’s evictions that could happen within 24 hours,” York adds.
She believes the lack of consultation with residents is a giant drawback since the needs of the park residents aren’t properly assessed before moving in. She points out people not living in the camp are left out of the process.
“Overall, this tactic just targets those living in the camp again. And we’d asked that, at that time that it not just be those who are most visible, but also all those who are vulnerable due to homelessness,” she says.
Lewis says the neighbourhood has been “traumatized” by the encampment, which was set up nearly a year ago after people were pushed out of CRAB Park on the waterfront. Before that, the large group had been living at Oppenheimer Park for years. That tent city was cleared in May 2020, displacing more than 300 people.
“We’ve seen assaults we’ve seen murders, we’ve seen deaths, we’ve seen ODs, we’ve seen stabbings — the list is endless,” she says.
“Many vulnerable people within the camp have also been directly affected by the criminal element that’s going on in this camp. Large encampments like this, tend to follow a trajectory and, and they unfortunately tend to descend into quite chaotic environments.”
Lewis says she and her neighbours are looking forward to having the park restored, so the people who live there can enjoy the green space.
“This is Vancouver’s lowest socio-economic neighbourhood, we have the least amount of green space of anywhere in Vancouver, and I know that there are so many people in our neighbourhood that are very much looking forward to getting green space back.”
– With files from Kareem Gouda