British Columbia

Oppenheimer Park campers seek delay of eviction order

Several hundred homeless camping in Oppenheimer Park on the Downtown Eastside will learn Tuesday whether the B.C. Supreme Court will grant an adjournment to the Vancouver Park Board's application to evict them.

Pivot Legal Society's lawyers argue city has not given them enough time to find new homes

Park campers vow to stay as Vancouver seeks injunction

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7 years ago
1:57
Lawyers from the City of Vancouver go to court to evict several hundred homeless people from Oppenheimer Park 1:57

Several hundred homeless camping in Oppenheimer Park on the Downtown Eastside will learn Tuesday whether the B.C. Supreme Court will grant an adjournment to the Vancouver Park Board's application to evict them.

On Monday lawyers for the Pivot Legal Society argued the campers had not been given enough time to find somewhere else to live.

Pivot is asking for an adjournment of up to 10 days to give the campers time to move. The B.C. Supreme Court is set to rule on that application Tuesday at 10 a.m. PT.

Lawyers representing the city's park board argued the campers have already been offered space in homeless shelters and the city needs to be able to enforce its bylaws.

Last week Mayor Gregor Robertson said living conditions at the site have deteriorated and the campsite is no longer safe, and the city is attempting to move the campers into shelters.

It is estimated there are well over 100 people living in tents at the park. Many say they would hate to see the camp go because volunteers there have helped them and others.

"Like when I go to work I need a lunch, they provided me with a lunch," said camper Ricky Comeau who describes himself as working-homeless.

"You know what I mean? They make sure my stuff is safe when I go to work. I love it!"

Volunteers running a neighbourhood lunch program over the weekend say they're aware of the controversy, but are impressed with the camp.

"They have some pretty good organization it seems," said volunteer Wisam Abdulla. 

"Sometimes in front of the bottle depot we just kind of get raided, whereas here it was nice and orderly."

Organizer Swampy Cree says the camp is attracting people from all over the province. She says the region needs a more coordinated approach to homelessness. (CBC)

Others tasked with maintaining order at the camp express frustration because the camp is attracting people from all over the region.

Organizer Swamp Cree says the region needs a more coordinated strategy to homelessness.

"We need to communicate more about what's going on," said Cree, "because a lot of people are coming from all over the province to come down here."

The city says it has been making big strides finding places for the homeless. Soon the Quality Inn on Howe Street will be used for emergency housing,

But residents living nearby aren't too keen on an influx of homeless, saying these kinds of stop-gap measures don't fix the problem and could force them to move.

Oppenheimer Park, in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, remains a tent city on Sept. 25, 2014, more than two months after homeless campers and their supporters said they would begin living in the park due to a lack of adequate housing. (CBC)

Even if the tenters are forced from their camp, many of them say they won't go to shelters.

"They don't like the rules or they're too crowded, or nobody likes to sleep with 40 mats, all stuck together," said tenter Mariel Berubé 

Berubé says many people at Oppenheimer Park need a lot of help, and he doesn't think they'll find it on Monday.

Some of the campers attempted to move to Stanley Park on Sunday evening, but city officials blocked the attempt by closing down the park.

Pivot Legal Society also learned on Monday morning that the B.C. Supreme Court will hear their case to defend the rights of homeless people to camp in Abbotsford's Jubilee Camp.

Google Maps: Oppenheimer Park

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