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Park board won’t evict Oppenheimer Park campers, wants homelessness task force

WATCH: It doesn't look like Vancouverites who are frustrated with the tent city in Oppenheimer Park will be getting relief any time soon. Jill Bennett reports.

The Vancouver Park Board says it will not be seeking a court injunction to clear homeless campers from Oppenheimer Park.

How to deal with the camp, which has been entrenched in the park for the better part of a year, has been a growing concern. In recent months neighbours and Vancouver police have both complained about growing disorder and violence at the site.

WATCH: Campers remain at Oppenheimer Park

Campers remain at Oppenheimer Park
Campers remain at Oppenheimer Park

“We do not believe that seeking an injunction through the courts with the goal of getting the people from Oppenheimer Park is a solution,” Green Party Park Board Chair Stuart MacKinnon said on Friday.

READ MORE: Park board ‘not equipped’ to handle Oppenheimer Park problems: Vancouver mayor

MacKinnon said clearing campers and tents from the park would not solve the homeless problem, only displace it to other parts of the city.

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Last month, the board ordered campers to leave the park — moving about 100 of the residents to housing in nearby single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel units.

Dozens of campers, however, remain in the park.

READ MORE: Neighbours to Oppenheimer Park homeless camp call on city to speed up response

This week, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he wants the city to assume temporary jurisdiction over the park, arguing the park board was not equipped to handle the social issues underpinning the camp, and that the city could better work with senior levels of government to develop a “full plan” for the park.

MacKinnon also appeared to rule that option out on Friday, saying he wants the city to develop a “multi-jurisdictional task force” to address homelessness in the city.

WATCH: Oppenheimer Park neighbours say tent city situation worsening

Oppenheimer Park neighbours say tent city situation worsening
Oppenheimer Park neighbours say tent city situation worsening

“This is not just a problem for Oppenheimer Park; homelessness is all of our problem,” said MacKinnon.

READ MORE: More than 100 Oppenheimer Park campers moved into housing, but rest say they won’t move

“Housing is not within the mandate of the Board of Parks and Recreation, and so we ask the city, the province, and the federal government to acknowledge this as a crisis and to act immediately. This needs an unprecedented commitment of resources, now.”

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MacKinnon added the city and province need to be open to options that “have previously been off-limits” in a bid to address the issue.

In a statement, Stewart expressed disappointment.

“Despite indicating that they would be considering my request to turn jurisdiction of Oppenheimer Park over to City Council, today’s press conference made clear that the Park Board has not yet done so,” said Stewart.

“I again urge the Park Board to help us move forward by meeting before Sept. 16 and voting on my request.”

Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Park Commissioner John Coupar cast the lone vote in favour of an injunction on Monday night, and said he was “very disappointed by the weak response” of his fellow commissioners, warning that Vancouver’s parks could now fill up with tents.

“The park board has a fundamental duty to deliver great park and recreation experiences at every park in the city and ensure that all Vancouver parks are clean and safe, including Oppenheimer Park,” said Coupar.

“The Downtown Eastside is particularly deficient in park space. Oppenheimer Park needs to be made safe and clean again for everyone to enjoy.”

Coupar said the board had elected to go with the “weakest of all possible responses” to the Oppenheimer situation by “doing nothing more than writing a letter to the city” asking for a housing strategy.

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