British Columbia

Vancouver city council approves decampment plan for Oppenheimer Park

Vancouver city council has approved a plan to address the needs of tent city residents in Oppenheimer Park.

Motion calls for new city outreach team to help homeless population find housing and other support

Vancouver fire and park board officials take away mattresses while checking on vacant tents at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver on Aug. 20, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Vancouver city council has approved a plan to address the needs of tent city residents in Oppenheimer Park.

A motion brought forward by councillors Michael Wiebe and Lisa Dominato called on the city to move forward with a collaborative plan to support residents living in the park and to restore the grounds for public use.

This would mean creating an outreach team to help connect homeless residents with appropriate housing, health care and support services.

The motion, which was approved Wednesday night, also calls on the city to work with the Vancouver Park Board to provide access to showers and washrooms in city parks, and explore options for providing a community kitchen, laundry facilities and bathrooms with running water. 

"We have to step away from the stigma, we have to step away from thinking that there's a silver bullet and we need to really work with every level of government and every organization that's down there to make it work," Wiebe said.

"The timing is kind of immediate."

This summer, the Vancouver Park Board managed to resettle around 100 park residents into single resident occupancy (SRO) housing or shelters. The city estimated this accounted for more than two-thirds of the people who were living in the park at the time.

Last month, the park board voted against evicting people living in tents, choosing instead an approach to help them find alternative housing. 

Wiebe said the motion was brought forward to address some of the deep-rooted issues — like mental health and the housing crisis — that have resulted in the park becoming home to hundreds of people at times.

The motion calls on the city to seek funding from the provincial and federal governments to expand and support employment opportunities and initiatives like the Park Stewardship Program.

It also calls for a review of services in the Downtown Eastside, and to support the Vancouver Police Department in increasing its capacity to respond to mental health calls for support. 

The goal is to continue to move people up the housing ladder, Wiebe said. 

"We need to really work on this and I think there is an appetite from all levels of government to coordinate and come together to really kind of make an impact as soon as we can," he said. 

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