VANCOUVER — With a salmon barbeque planned on Saturday and a growing site of tents and tarps, it’s clear a group of homeless campers that were ordered to leave Oppenheimer Park over a month ago aren’t going anywhere.
What started as a handful of people has grown to an estimated 150 campers calling the Downtown Eastside green space home.
“We need the politicians to open their eyes and their hearts and minds. We’re top priority. We should never be here at all to begin with,” elder Stella August told Global News. The groups says they’re waiting for social housing and are staying put until spaces become available.
A notice ordering the structures to be removed was issued by the City of Vancouver in July, but so far there have been no serious attempts to follow through on the order. August says city staff drop by from time to time to check on the group.
City officials say the are working with the Vancouver Police and Vancouver Fire departments to monitor the park and the campers daily, for safety and health concerns. As for housing, the city says its working with BC Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health to find long-term housing and shelter options for those in need.
A spokesperson said in an e-mail that, “the City supports the right to gather and carry out peaceful protest however, the Parks are there for the enjoyment of everyone and the City is requesting that the structures be removed from Oppenheimer Park so that the park can return to its regular use by the entire community.”
The campers say they hope the discussions can continue on Saturday night, at the barbeque that they hope will be attended by politicians and city leaders.
–With files from Grace Ke.
© Shaw Media, 2014