British Columbia

Homeless in the snow: Tent community growing in Vancouver park amid cold snap

The Shanahan family came to Vancouver last month on a promise of work, but a long train ride and $10,000 later, they're living in a tent in the midst of an extended blast of winter weather.

Community group calls for warming tent in Oppenheimer Park, where about 50 are now camping

The Shanahans are living in Oppenheimer Park while they try to find housing for six people and a dog. (CBC)

The Shanahan family came to Vancouver last month on a promise of work, but a long train ride and $10,000 later, they're living in a tent in the midst of an extended blast of winter weather.

The jobs the Shanahans expected to find in B.C. turned out to be a scam, so they've spent two weeks camping out in Oppenheimer Park while they try to find work and housing.

"[It's been] humbling, but very difficult too, at that. The weather, we're used to it being from Ontario, but just watching the other people, it's starting to break my heart," Andrew Shanahan said.

The Shanahans are part of a growing homeless community camping out in the Downtown Eastside park as the city is blanketed in snow and temperatures remain below freezing through the night.

According to the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP), the number of people camping in the park has jumped from about 30 to 50 since the snow started falling. The group has been tracking the numbers on a daily basis since the end of January.

About 50 people are now spending the night in tents at Oppenheimer Park. (CBC)

Fiona York, a CCAP co-ordinator, would like to see the municipal government provide more support for people sleeping outside, including an on-site warming tent.

"We're concerned with what people were experiencing and what we might see coming with the colder weather," she said.

The city says it has outreach teams working every day to try to move people indoors. On top of 900 permanent shelter beds throughout the city, Vancouver also offers temporary shelters with about 300 beds, extreme weather response shelters that open whenever the temperature drops below freezing, and four warming centres where anyone can come inside with their belongings and pets.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly suggested that the available temporary shelter beds in Vancouver are full.
    Feb 15, 2019 3:20 PM PT

With files from Micki Cowan