Wishing everyone a happy holiday and a healthy new year.
December 14 2020
The Vancouver Park Board, City of Vancouver, and partners are committed to ending the encampment in Strathcona Park as soon as possible. All partners continue to work on long-term solutions, but in the meantime several short-term solutions are underway, including providing temporary indoor spaces.
We have identified several properties that can be deployed as temporary indoor spaces to support bringing people experiencing unsheltered homelessness inside. City-owned sites include Jericho Hostel and 2400 Motel as directed by Vancouver City Council, with the use of the Jericho Hostel also recently approved by the Park Board. We are also working with BC Housing to secure additional temporary shelter spaces.
Our staff are working to activate these facilities as soon as possible, including applying for operating funding from the Province, notifying the surrounding communities, planning and implementing renovations, and securing non-profit operators.
“The status quo at Strathcona Park is not OK. We need a resolution to the encampment. I believe we are on track to do that,” said Camil Dumont, Park Board Chair. “In order to get there, safer, dry, warm, indoor shelter for the many people currently stuck outdoors needs to be made available. Securing that option is a significant challenge. Thankfully, this work is under way. It’s a complex effort. I am very encouraged by the work of our partners which aims to ensure indoor space that is as dignified and as safe as possible is made available to the people taking refuge in Strathcona Park. That said, there is still much to do. We strive to ensure that Strathcona Park will again, soon, be a space that is welcoming and accessible to all. We also need to help ensure people are as safe as possible in the interim, in the park, and in the community at large.”
Once indoor spaces are available for people staying in Strathcona Park, the Park Board has authorized General Manager Donnie Rosa to enforce the Parks Control By-law. The revised by-law enacted by commissioners in September still allows overnight camping; however, tents must be removed by 8am each morning. However, the goal of all of the partners is to work together and with people experiencing homelessness in the park to support their voluntary transition indoors.
Interim essential services
While work continues to bring the additional temporary spaces online, BC Housing and the City of Vancouver are working together to plan some interim essential services for people sleeping in Strathcona Park.
“We and our partners want to ensure that people have a safe, warm place to sleep indoors,” said Sandra Singh, General Manager of Arts, Culture and Community Services for the City of Vancouver. “This winter is particularly difficult. The combination of the pandemic and the falling temperatures is making a difficult situation even worse and we are in active discussions with the Province regarding funding to provide shelter and housing options as soon as we can. Of course, given we are in a pandemic, we will also engage with Vancouver Coastal Health to ensure we have appropriate protocols and procedures in place as we do this work.”
Fire safety regulations
In addition, a ‘Fire Chief’s Order’ was issued on June 25, 2020, to outline fire safety regulations for those living in the park. Enforcement of the order, or any new order, will include the removal of propane tanks and flammable materials, as well as ensuring proper spacing of tents and structures to limit the risk of fire spread.
Funding for permanent housing
Separately, we have also applied for funding of up to $51.5 million to support creating permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness through the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative, and are anticipating a response in the near future.
City staff also continue to actively work to house people experiencing homelessness at the park while these indoor solutions are being organized, with the ultimate goal being decampment into permanent shelter options. These efforts are in addition to ongoing work to house people experiencing homelessness across the city.