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Vancouver’s Strathcona residents rally to demand safe housing for homeless people

Click to play video: 'Strathcona residents demand government action on homelessness' Strathcona residents demand government action on homelessness
Residents of Vancouver's Strathcona neighbourhood, the site of a growing homeless camp, are demanding all levels of government do something about the crisis that has landed on their doorstep. Nadia Stewart reports. – Sep 29, 2020

Dozens of residents in the Strathcona neighbourhood in Vancouver rallied Tuesday morning to demand safe housing for those living in the large tent city in Strathcona Park.

There have been countless clashes over the past few weeks between homeowners and campers, with many homeowners saying they have been yelled at and threatened, and no longer feel safe.

Click to play video: 'Strathcona residents rally for safer housing for campers in the nearby park' Strathcona residents rally for safer housing for campers in the nearby park
Strathcona residents rally for safer housing for campers in the nearby park – Sep 29, 2020

But Tuesday’s rally was about calling for supportive housing for the park residents.

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“We’re trying to get safe housing, number one, for the group of people that have been forced to make camp at Strathcona Park,” resident Maureen Teahan told Global News.

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

“What we really wanted to do was bring awareness to this problem and get our government agents to come and do something and come and take a look. It’s just that nothing’s been done.”

Everyone deserves the right to be housed safely along with access to support for drug addiction and mental health issues if needed, Teahan said.

“Everybody needs to be loved, supported and have a safe place to live.”

Click to play video: 'Man threatened people with chainsaw in Strathcona neighbourhood' Man threatened people with chainsaw in Strathcona neighbourhood
Man threatened people with chainsaw in Strathcona neighbourhood – Sep 28, 2020

Peter Portuondo has been living in Strathcona Park for about a month after losing his job and home due to COVID-19.

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He said many people in the tent city want to get help, but just as many appear to want to be left alone.

“When we moved into the park, we realized the park is not really [for] homeless people. It’s more street people coming in and taking the opportunity between gangs — selling drugs or prostitution,” Portuondo said.
“And then they’re all stealing [from] people’s homes — their products and bicycles. That’s the issue that’s down here. And the mess, just a disgusting mess all the time.”
Click to play video: 'Another disturbing incident at Vancouver’s Strathcona Park homeless camp' Another disturbing incident at Vancouver’s Strathcona Park homeless camp
Another disturbing incident at Vancouver’s Strathcona Park homeless camp – Sep 23, 2020

Mayor Kennedy Stewart has been heavily criticized over the encampment.

Earlier this month, he tabled a motion at council for city staff to explore more options, including setting up temporary emergency relief camps on vacant land and temporarily converting city-owned buildings into emergency housing or shelter space.

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Staff are to report to council this Friday.

The motion also called on staff to work with BC Housing to secure more long-term housing, and expedite approval for 450 modular homes.

A representative of the camp, Nicole Luongo, told Global News Tuesday there needs to be more consultation and a multi-tiered approach from all levels of government to address homelessness. “Ultimately the voices of those who have been un-housed need to be uplifted and their wants and needs need to be prioritized,” she said.

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