06 September 2019

Park Board Statement on Oppenheimer Park

The Park Board met last night to discuss the current situation in Oppenheimer Park. Commissioners have received regular updates and have met on three occasions throughout the summer.

I am here to share the most recent decision of the commissioners. The Board did not approve the staff recommendation to proceed with an application for an injunction to remove structures and tents at Oppenheimer Park.

Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. We need to work together to build a community that ensures appropriate housing for all. Our approach must be comprehensive, compassionate, and holistic. We need both a short-term and a long-term action plan that will render unsanctioned encampments such as Oppenheimer unnecessary.

We are requesting that the City establish a multi-jurisdictional task force to adequately address homelessness and inequity within our city.

This is not just a problem for Oppenheimer Park; homelessness is all of our problem. Housing is not within the mandate of the Board of Parks and Recreation, and so we ask the City, the Province, and the Federal Government to acknowledge this as a crisis and to act immediately. This needs an unprecedented commitment of resources, now.

We need to be open to potential solutions that have previously been off-limits. We need to engage meaningfully with people experiencing homelessness in a respectful and dignified dialogue to understand their experiences and their perspectives.

We need to be brave; we need to be creative; we need to be bold; and we need to recognize that all options are on the table.

In the long term we need affordable, safe, permanent housing for all. In the short term we must consider the creation of intentional encampments, the purchase of properties appropriate for transitional housing, and the acceleration of the housing initiatives already in progress, including temporary modular housing.

We do not believe that seeking an injunction through the courts with the goal of clearing people from Oppenheimer Park will bring us any closer to a true solution. Simply removing people from Oppenheimer Park, which may force them onto the streets, back lanes, and into other parks, is not the solution.

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