‘Slow process’: Vancouver welcoming CRAB Park occupants back in designated area

Click to play video: 'Vancouver welcoming CRAB Park occupants back in designated area'
Vancouver welcoming CRAB Park occupants back in designated area
The big clean-up is complete, with residents of a section of Vancouver's Crab Park now being allowed back. But there's a twist, not all of them want to come back. Alissa Thibault reports – Apr 6, 2024

People who have been using Vancouver’s CRAB Park for temporary sheltering are being welcomed back into a cleaned-up area of the park, which has been designated for sheltering.

The cleaned-up area of the park has been resurfaced with fresh gravel and has 27 demarcated sheltering sites.

A large-scale cleaning operation was conducted at the site by the City of Vancouver due to unsafe living conditions. It took a few weeks. During the cleanup, a new temporary location at the park was designated for people staying in the closed area.

Vancouver has reopened the cleaned area and one city official said getting people to move back in has been a “very slow process.”

“It was an extraordinary amount of work (in the cleanup),” Sandra Singh said, a City of Vancouver deputy manager. “We have 27 sheltering spaces for people here in the designated area. We opened the area on Thursday to invite people to relocate back in and that has been a very slow process.”

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Singh said by the end of Friday, 12 people were ready to relocate back in out of 27 registered people.

“What we’ve heard from our partners and service providers was that they are being advised not to (move back in),” Singh said. “We’re very disappointed. We are encouraging folks to move back in and we do need to close the the temporary sheltering area.”

If some of the registered people do not return to the new designated area, the City of Vancouver will be removing demarcated sheltering sites and will shrink the area as needed.

“We will be reducing the size of the designated area over time so we can return it to park use for the whole community,” Singh said.

Click to play video: 'CRAB Park encampment cleanup set to begin March 25'
CRAB Park encampment cleanup set to begin March 25

Round-the-clock sheltering has been permitted in a northern portion of the park by a special order since the city lost a legal battle to remove homeless people living there in 2022.

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The city said the designated area had become unsafe, with propane tanks, human waste and rats and that numerous illegal built structures had been erected on the site. People living there were ordered to move to a temporary space last month, while city crews used heavy equipment to clear and remediate the site.

Crews removed more than 90,000 kilograms of debris and material, 20 propane tanks and six generators.

“The cleanup process went smoothly, despite a delay due to a small number of people who needed additional time to relocate and very wet weather, which meant crews needed more time over the long weekend to repair the ground and lay a new gravel layer,” the city said in its release.

New tents and canopies for individuals, and communal areas, have been provided by BC Housing.

The city said only those who were registered in the designated area as of Feb. 26 will be allowed to return, and the site will be made smaller as those individuals find housing and leave.

It also said that if conditions in the area “deteriorate to the point of non-compliance with the Parks Control By-law or something happens that is a public safety or health concern” it may withdraw the order permitting round-the-clock sheltering.

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

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