City of Vancouver provides 'Sugar Mountain' tent city with running water, more toilets

A day after residents called on the government to take action, running water and additional portable toilets have been installed at a tent city in East Vancouver.

Water station installed after residents call on government for help

Sugar Mountain tent city resident Ward Ferguson says the newly installed water station is a huge improvement over hauling salvaged water from nearby businesses. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

A day after residents called on the government to take action, additional portable toilets and running water have been installed at a tent city in East Vancouver.

The "Sugar Mountain" tent city, named for the nearby B.C. Sugar Refinery, is home to about 48 people, who were salvaging water from nearby businesses for weeks before those businesses began to shut off their outdoor faucets.

But on Friday morning, City of Vancouver crews installed a drinking water station and two portable toilets, in addition to two already on site.

"It's closer, it's colder, it's cleaner," said resident Ward Ferguson of the new water station.

"It's close and it's handy and they can't tell us no [anymore]."

Resident Jeo Mellish has taken it on himself to become the camp's unofficial maintenance man. He built an improvised shower from scrap material salvaged by residents. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The new water station and toilets come several days after Social Development Minister Shane Simpson toured the tent city. On Thursday, Simpson promised his ministry would take action "as soon as possible."

One resident, who asked not to be identified, is eight months pregnant. She was surprised to see any action taken at all, let alone so quickly — but residents say the deeper underlying problem is access to affordable housing, and she doesn't see that changing any time soon.

"I didn't think they would actually do something," she said. "They always say they're going to do something but they never do."

In an emailed statement, Housing Minister Selina Robinson thanked the city for providing the services, and said she will continue to discuss options with the campers.

"I look forward to hearing from them on their ideas for short- and long-term solutions, and the next steps that can be taken to improve the situation for the campers," Robinson said in the statement.

With files from Tina Lovgreen.