The number of tents at Vancouver’s Strathcona Park has reached nearly 350, and residents are growing more and more concerned following what one city councillor calls “a number of scary incidents involving children.”
Coun. Pete Fry, who also lives in the area, recounted three incidents he heard from neighbours to CKNW’s Lynda Steele in an interview on Tuesday.
“A man threatened to gouge a kid’s eyes out for looking at him,” Fry said.
“Another child was in the water park and a gentleman was in some stage of psychosis and he walked over, picked the child up and lifted him over his head, shook him and then put him down and proceeded to get into a fight with a jet of water.
Campers moved in after the Oppenheimer and CRAB park encampments, also on the east side, were shut down earlier this year, as part of the province’s attempt to find them temporary housing and slow the spread of the coronavirus.
From the moment the Strathcona camp went up, Fry said he knew it could cause a lot of problems.
“We have a real variety of folks — people who are experiencing homelessness, people who are experiencing mental health and addiction issues, and criminal activity,” he said.
“It’s only going to be a matter of time before the organized crime kind of asserts itself in the situation.”
Chrissy Brett, spokeswoman for the tent city that has been dubbed Camp KT for Kennedy Trudeau, said all of those incidents sound “horrifying.”
“Those behaviours are not okay,” Brett told Global News, adding there is a mass crisis of synthetic drugs that are creating psychosis and excited delirium.
“I’ve heard the prices have gone up and the supply has gone down,” she said. “Now, people are cutting things with God knows what and it’s creating a level of psychosis I’ve never seen.”
Brett and other camp leaders are calling for a safe supply of drugs and alcohol to be available to anyone who needs it.
Recently, Fry himself was involved in a confrontation with a man near Hawks and Union streets, not far from the Strathcona camp.
A woman asked a man to leave after she saw he was about to inject drugs on her neighbour’s doorstep, and he got aggressive. Fry happened to arrive home at the same time and tried to intervene, which prompted the man to threaten to stab him.
Brett has called for proper housing for the city’s homeless campers many times.
“If Pete Fry wants to do something, I would welcome him to come forward and work with us. We will work with him as a person of colour and we invite him as a leader of his so-called community to come and work with us,” she said.