British Columbia

Park board releases new plan to relocate Oppenheimer Park campers

Officials plan to hire a third party not-for-profit organization to help move campers out of the park.

Officials to use outside agency to help find shelter alternatives for campers and will change park bylaws

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

The Vancouver Park Board is moving ahead on a plan it hopes will result in dozens of homeless campers voluntarily leaving Oppenheimer Park.

The plan also includes obtaining an injunction to stop people from camping there.

In a statement, the park board says it is hiring an outside agency to assess the park and make recommendations for safety, support and shelter alternatives for campers.

"We would like to work with a third party, not-for-profit group to help us facilitate conversations with all the campers as a collective issue," said park board manager Malcolm Bromley at Tuesday morning's city council meeting.

"Our housing staff does an excellent job working with people in the camp to find suitable housing, but what we'd like to do is work with somebody from the Downtown Eastside who can provide some facilitated conversations with the campers as a whole."

Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Bromley says the park board will also revise the current "no camping" bylaw to bring it up to the current legal precedent which says sheltering overnight in a park should be allowed if no other housing alternatives are available.

According to a park board spokesperson, the new bylaw will be an attempt to "provide a balance between providing access to parks for all in the community and the rights of all people to shelter."

According to the statement, Bromley will seek an injunction once new bylaws are in place which could allow for homeless camping in certain parks with adjacent resources.

The safety of Oppenheimer campers has been an ongoing issue, most recently in the news because of the colder weather.

"We are very concerned with people taking warmth into their own hands and bringing in things like propane heaters which can be very unsafe in a confined area, very unsafe in a tent," said chair Stuart Mackinnon.

The tent city at Oppenheimer Park on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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