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City clears tents pitched outside designated encampment area in Vancouver’s CRAB Park

Click to play video: 'Park rangers remove more tents from Vancouver’s CRAB Park'
Park rangers remove more tents from Vancouver’s CRAB Park
The Vancouver Park Board says it's trying to restore community access to the park during the day, however, advocates worry there is no plan for displaced residents. Angela Jung reports. – Apr 16, 2024

Park rangers were back in Vancouver’s CRAB Park on Tuesday, removing tents set up outside a designated area that serves as the city’s only sanctioned homeless encampment.

City officials said crews removed an estimated 22 tents pitched in the park’s south side.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver welcoming CRAB Park occupants back in designated area'
Vancouver welcoming CRAB Park occupants back in designated area

The move comes after crews conducted a cleanup of the designated area, citing illegally-built structures, hazardous materials and human waste. People registered as sheltering in the designated area were moved to another part of the park while the work was underway before being allowed to return earlier this month.

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But advocates for the homeless argue the city has restricted who can move back and is unfairly clearing out people sheltering elsewhere in the park.

“There are so many people just staying on the hillside, clinging to that hill, waiting for the chance to move into that designated area so they would have some protection and be able to stay there until they could get housing and now their tents are being ripped down and their belongings are being removed,” CRAB Park advocate Fiona York said.

Sheltering overnight is permitted in Vancouver parks, but — with the exception of the designated area — bylaws require tents to be removed by 7:30 a.m. The city issued warnings last week that permanent tents would not be allowed in other parts of CRAB Park following the cleanup.

Click to play video: 'Questions about CRAB Park cleanup'
Questions about CRAB Park cleanup

The city maintains that it has been clear that only people who were sheltering in the designated area before the cleanup would be allowed to return.

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In a draft cleanup plan published March 12, the park board said a Feb. 14 count had identified 30 people who were sheltering there at least three times per week and who had provided ID to staff and were placed on a BC Housing priority list.

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It said another 22 people were seen in the area at some point since November 2023, but less frequently.

On April 3, when the cleanup was completed, the city said the number of spaces had fallen to 27, citing a Feb. 26 count of residents, adding that the designated area would be reduced in size as those registered were placed in housing.

On April 8 the city said that number had been reduced to 16, and on Tuesday, said it had been reduced again to 14 as “more intended users moved indoors.”

“As we find housing for those we will continue to bring that number down,” Park Board General Manager Steve Jackson said.

Click to play video: 'Cleanup underway at Vancouver’s CRAB Park tent city'
Cleanup underway at Vancouver’s CRAB Park tent city

York alleged the city has been arbitrarily adjusting the number of people who can stay in the area, and claimed many former encampment residents were being denied the right to return.

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“They’ve changed the story over and over; they kept insisting it wasn’t a decampment, but clearly this is obviously a decampment,” she said.

“It really didn’t make sense because there are still more and more people, there are 5,000 people in the LM who are homeless, so there are more and more people that are going to need the spaces, and then they dropped that down to … 14.”

On Tuesday, the city posted a notice with details on how to appeal access to the designated area.

“We’ve got a list on our side of the 16 intended users at the time that were established, again that’s down to 14,” Jackson said.

“There are folks in the community who felt like they should have been on the list, and so that is what the appeals process is going to facilitate, that’s an opportunity for folks to share their story on why they should be in the designated space and we will go through the process.”

But York argued an appeals process will be of little use to people whose belongings and tents were taken Tuesday, saying they would have nothing to come back to if they were to win.

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