The City of Vancouver has applied to the B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction to complete the dismantling of a long-running homeless camp at 58 West Hastings.
The city says the move comes as conditions in the camp and weather deteriorate, and says safety has become an issue.
But one homeless man says their safety is the last thing on the city’s mind.
Chris Garcia has been living at the camp for the past six weeks. He says he’ll resist any attempts to be removed from the campground. Garcia says being moved elsewhere adds stress to an already very stressful situation.
According to Garcia, 14 people are still living in the tent city, and added that they have nowhere else to go.
In efforts to provide relocation options to those still on site, additional shelter space will be offered at 49 West Cordova St. The city says outreach teams will continues to work on long-term housing plans, but some of the people who remain say they’d rather take their chances outside.
The number of tents on site has been reducing since the city initially made shelter space available for those on site on Oct. 25, decreasing from approximately 45 tents to less than 10.
An ongoing issue
According to the city, since the site first developed there have been over 65 calls for VPD service, at least four assaults reported on site, over 20 emergency calls-for-service to 58 West Hastings have been registered by Emergency Health Services and two Fire Chief’s Orders have been given to campers for the removal of fire hazards.
City staff began monitoring the camp on a 24 hour basis back in July, including daily garbage collection. But despite this, the city says the camp has “continued to deteriorate, posing significant health and safety risks to everyone on the site as a major remediation.”
This regular monitoring came around the time that housing protesters (many of whom lived within 58 West Hastings) demanded a meeting with Mayor Gregor Robertson to request toilets and wash stations at the camp on July 12.
Robertson declined these services, stating he would rather see the tent city shut down before people get hurt.
A proposed transformation to social housing
In August, Robertson declared the city would turn the tent city location into social housing, and to speed up the process.
“We’re committing to take this to rezoning next year in the first half of the year. That building could be as many as 300 homes in it. We’re going to be putting pressure on the B.C. and federal government to commit to making sure that all of those rooms can be a shelter welfare rates.”
By October, that number of homes was presented by Robertson to be 250, but he says the site will also include a health centre. The estimated cost to build sits at $70 million.
Tent cities, both their development and dismantling, have been an ongoing issue across the province. Notable sites have appeared in Abbotsford, Langley and Victoria. Meanwhile, Burnaby does not have an existing homeless shelter in place.