Tensions between homeless and residents in Strathcona Park area are getting worse: Vancouver mayor

Click to play video: 'Vancouver mayor says an announcement about Strathcona Park coming soon'
Vancouver mayor says an announcement about Strathcona Park coming soon
At a press conference Thursday, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart acknowledged the situation in Strathcona between residents and members of a homeless camp has "hit a different place." He said his office is working on a plan and an announcement is coming soon – Sep 3, 2020

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he’s aware that tensions between homeowners and residents of a homeless camp in the Strathcona neighbourhood have reached a new level.

“I do really feel for the residents of Strathcona, and in fact, I have been down and met with a number of homeowners in the area (and) local business improvement associations,” Stewart said Thursday at an unrelated news  conference. “I do agree that the situation is worsening.”

With more than 400 tents estimated in Strathcona Park, homeowners have repeatedly called on the city and province to address the issue.

The municipality is building 100 new units of modular housing, which will be ready in the spring, but the mayor said he knows they need take action before then.

He revealed the city will be making an announcement “in the coming days,” but did not say when or hint at the content.

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Click to play video: 'Residents demand action on Strathcona Park encampment'
Residents demand action on Strathcona Park encampment

Neighbourhood residents have said that not only is most of their largest park off-limits, but that verbal attacks and violent encounters are on the rise as those who frequent the homeless camp move through the surrounding streets.

In July, a man threatened to stab Coun. Pete Fry during a confrontation captured on video.

More recently, neighbours reported a number of scary incidents involving children – including two kids being threatened and another child who was picked up and shaken in the water park by a stranger who appeared to be experiencing psychosis.

Click to play video: 'Strathcona residents threaten to withhold property taxes over growing tent city'
Strathcona residents threaten to withhold property taxes over growing tent city

Premier John Horgan said the province is also working on a plan to address the issues at Strathcona Park, and cited the removal of tents from Oppenheimer, Topaz and Pandora parks in Vancouver and Victoria as measures of success.

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However, he said he knows just clearing one park or area is not enough.

“The problem has not diminished significantly as a result, and the vulnerable population, the people, the brothers and sisters — let’s keep that in mind, these are people who have found themselves in situations not necessarily of their making,” Horgan said during an unrelated news conference earlier in the day.

“We need to find ways to address these challenges within the context of a global pandemic.”

Click to play video: 'Video shows man threatening to stab Vancouver city councillor in Strathcona confrontation'
Video shows man threatening to stab Vancouver city councillor in Strathcona confrontation

Housing Minister Selina Robinson has also been meeting with mayors, he added, and they will have more to say “in the coming weeks.”

The province’s efforts to reduce homelessness reached a crisis point during the pandemic. In late April, officials began moving campers to temporary housing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. But new tent cities have cropped up not far away, such as at Strathcona Park in Vancouver and Centennial Square in Victoria.


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