British Columbia

Vancouver releases strategy to move homeless people out of Strathcona Park

City says it is working for a "voluntary transition" to indoor housing before seeking an injunction to clear the park of campers.

City-owned Jericho Hostel and 2400 Motel to be used as temporary housing in 'voluntary transition' plan

The City of Vancouver plans to use the Jericho Hostel to temporarily house people living in Strathcona Park. (Google streetview)

The wheels are being put in motion to end the tent city at Vancouver's Strathcona Park, where over 300 people are living.

Donnie Rosa, general manager of the Vancouver Park Board, said in an online conference Monday that once indoor space has been secured for the encampment's residents, the board will move to enforce the city's no-camping bylaw, possibly through a court injunction, which prohibits any daytime camping from 8 a.m. until dusk.

Plans are underway to use Jericho Hostel in West Point Grey and the 2400 Motel on Kingsway as temporary indoor space to shelter those living in the park.

"The goal of all of the partners is to work together and with people experiencing homelessness in the park to support their voluntary transition indoors," the City of Vancouver said in a media release.

No timeline has been presented for moving residents of the tent city out of the park, Rosa added.

Once the campers have left Strathcona Park, the camp space will be fenced off for remediation.

On CBC's The Early Edition on Monday, Vancouver Coun. Rebecca Bligh said the 285-bed Jericho Hostel will operate at below capacity as temporary housing in order to abide by pandemic protocols.

The Strathcona Park tent city in Vancouver pictured on July 2, around two weeks after homeless people began relocating there. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"It would be appropriate, given the location of Jericho Hostel, to temporarily house folks there who don't require a lot of supports around them because it's not really close to anything they need," she said, adding that the city was looking for a not-for-profit operator for the hostel. 

Sandra Singh, general manager of Arts, Culture, and Community Services, said the city still needs funding from the province in order to open the spaces. It has requested that funding, but it will take time. 

Singh added that the city is working with BC Housing to implement some interim essential services such as a warming tent, some showers, and washrooms for Strathcona Park campers, now that the park board had made it clear the encampment won't be allowed to become entrenched.

The park board is also looking to renovate two additional spaces into indoor shelters, she added, but couldn't comment further on these developments.

The Strathcona Park tent city appeared in June, immediately after the Vancouver Port Authority won a court injunction requiring campers to leave a parking lot next to the harbourfront CRAB Park.

A previous encampment at Oppenheimer Park on the Downtown Eastside was shut down by the B.C. government in April after nearly two years, over fears of COVID-19 spreading.

The City of Vancouver and Park Board says it has a strategy to end the tent city in Strathcona Park, where over 300 people are living. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

People living around Strathcona Park have voiced safety concerns over the tent city encampment.

Others see it as a flashpoint for Vancouver's homelessness and affordable housing crisis. 

In Monday's release, the city also says enforcement of a fire safety order issued for Strathcona Park in June will include the removal of propane tanks and flammable materials.

"The status quo at Strathcona Park is not OK. We need a resolution to the encampment. I believe we are on track to do that," said Park Board chair Camil Dumont.