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Bylaw blocks volunteers from building tiny home in Vancouver’s CRAB Park

Click to play video: 'Park rangers stop volunteers from building tiny home in Vancouver'
Park rangers stop volunteers from building tiny home in Vancouver
Vancouver park rangers stopped volunteers from building a tiny shelter at CRAB Park on Thurs. Jan. 18, 2024. According to the rangers, the shelter would have violated the city's bylaws. – Jan 19, 2024

Volunteers were unable to erect a tiny home in CRAB Park for someone in need of shelter on Thursday, their efforts blocked by Vancouver park rangers enforcing a bylaw that generally forbids tents and structures being set up in parks.

Last week, the group that built similar structures in Prince George voiced their intentions to make the homes available at the Vancouver encampment. At the time, the City of Vancouver and Board of Parks and Recreation said it would be supported.

“It’s ridiculous, forcing people to live in tents in the cold that we suffer in these northern climates,” said Bradley Gustafson, a co-founder of the End Homelessness Canada social media campaign.

“All we’re trying to do is create something that addresses three issues — one is safety for the persons, two is security for their belongings, and number three is insulation against the elements.”

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Click to play video: 'Volunteer-driven CRAB Park tiny house project faces opposition from city hall'
Volunteer-driven CRAB Park tiny house project faces opposition from city hall

Gustafson said the shelters are temporary and can be moved by forklift. Other advocates at CRAB Park said the tiny homes were not in violation of Vancouver’s park bylaws for that reason.

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Section 11 of the Park Control Bylaw states that no tents, buildings, shelters, pavilions or other constructions may go up in any park without the permission of the park board’s general manager, unless a temporary shelter is in compliance with provisions of that bylaw.

The bylaw is in place from dusk until dawn, meaning people can stay overnight but not during the day. That’s one section of the bylaw that was quoted by park rangers who prevented the tiny home’s construction on Thursday.

The other was Section 13, which allows staff to remove any obstruction or temporary shelter in a park that violates provisions of the bylaw.

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Click to play video: 'Vancouver police and park rangers dismantle Oppenheimer Park tents'
Vancouver police and park rangers dismantle Oppenheimer Park tents

In Prince George, Gustafson said the group was issued stop work orders because of that city’s bylaws as well, but came to the understanding that it was a legal precaution and would not be immediately enforced.

The tiny homes remain in Prince George’s Moccasin Flats encampment, he added.

“Obviously we’re not going to resolve all of the issues here today,” he said to media and park rangers in Vancouver on Thursday. “We have a broken system.

“I don’t like to throw shade at any single office. You guys are all doing your jobs and we applaud you for that … but what we do do, is talk about the broken system.”

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In December, Vancouver opened its first tiny home village at 875 Terminal Ave. The 10-home project houses couples or adult family members in a caregiver relationship who wouldn’t typically be able to stay in a shelter together.

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That pilot project was approved in February 2022 with a budget of $1.5 million.

Last week, the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation said they do not support a tiny homes project in CRAB Park, as the two-year pilot at Terminal Avenue is ongoing.

“The City is also prioritizing working with senior government to create more supportive and social housing and emergency shelter, as well as advocating for improved income, social, and mental health supports for people who are experiencing homelessness,” the municipality wrote by email on Jan. 9.

As it stands, Vancouver has 25 per cent of the region’s overall population but operates 75 per cent of its shelter spaces, it said. The city “looks forward to other local municipalities increasing their provision of shelter spaces and supportive and social housing,” it added.

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