Vancouver’s mayor is reiterating that there are no immediate plans to seek an injunction to clear a homeless camp from the city’s Oppenheimer Park.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart was responding to growing safety concerns around the encampment, which police said have led officers to patrol the area in groups.
A shooting across the street from the park earlier this month has also heightened tensions.
But homeless campers say the park is safer than the city’s shelters and preferable to single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels.
“These SROs are filled with bugs. And there’s less bugs in the tent than there are in the friggin’ SROs,” homeless camper Jason Hebert told Global News.
“Where’s our protection? Because I did some time in jail, because I live outside, I get no protection? That’s horse manure.”
On Monday, Stewart said priority number 1 for the city remains finding housing for the campers, adding that city staff attend the park daily to work with the residents.
“Our greatest concern there is for the folks that are living in the park as well as the first responders,” he said.
“So at this point, what we’re trying to do is find housing for those folks, working in conjunction with the B.C. government and BC Housing.”
WATCH: Coverage of the Oppenheimer Park tent city on Global News
Stewart went on to say the city is pressing the federal government for help, saying he’s “hopeful” there could be movement on the issue as early as “the next few weeks.”
Stewart met with federal Housing Minister Yves Duclos last week to make the city’s case.
“All sides would say the best thing to do is to get these folks housing, that’s why we’re working the resources we have through BC Housing and the provincial government, but now trying to draw in the federal government to make sure that they follow through on their promises to reduce homelessness,” said Stewart.
“A great place to start would be Oppenheimer Park.”
Vancouver’s latest homeless count found 2,223 homeless people living in the city, with 614 of those living without shelter.
—With files from Aaron McArthur