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Minister sets April target to end Vancouver’s Strathcona Park homeless camp

Click to play video: 'Province sets April target to end Strathcona Park encampment'
Province sets April target to end Strathcona Park encampment
Province sets April target to end Strathcona Park encampment – Jan 16, 2021

British Columbia’s minister responsible for housing says the province is aiming to end the homeless camp in Vancouver’s Strathcona Park by the end of April.

David Eby said Friday that the province and BC Housing were working towards finding housing for the estimated 200 camp residents, but acknowledged a good portion of that would be “transitional” in nature.

Read more: City of Vancouver mulls sites to temporarily house Strathcona Park campers

Officials are looking at a mixture of options including rent supplements, spaces in non-profit social housing and “what would be described as shelters, but more than a mat on the floor,” he said.

“So there are cubicles with a bed and a drawer for … safe storage of belongings and a desk and a light to work at — and most importantly, physical separation so that people are at a minimal risk of transmission of COVID,” he told CKNW’s The Jill Bennett Show.

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Click to play video: 'Vancouver Park Board commits to ending Strathcona Park tent city as soon as possible'
Vancouver Park Board commits to ending Strathcona Park tent city as soon as possible

Eby said the Vancouver Park Board, which has jurisdiction of the park, has agreed to seek an injunction to clear the park when spaces have been made available for all homeless people sheltering there.

Read more: Man found dead near Vancouver’s Strathcona Park homeless camp

In the interim, BC Housing says it plans to have a temporary warming tent, washrooms and showers in the park this weekend.

“These will play an essential role in keeping people living in the park safe until they move into indoor shelter space,” the agency said in a tweet.

Read more: Man found unresponsive in Strathcona Park homeless camp following ‘serious assault’: police

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The temporary facilities will be operated by peer workers With Atira Women’s Resource Society, it said.

Click to play video: 'Latest victim of Strathcona Park attack speaks out'
Latest victim of Strathcona Park attack speaks out

Vancouver City Councillor Pete Fry, who lives in the Strathcona neighbourhood, said he had hoped the province would move faster.

Read more: Man brutally attacked at Vancouver homeless camp ‘blown away’ by support

“It’s a somewhat disappointing timeline as far as folks who are expecting a more rapid response, including myself, and obviously for people who are struggling, living in a park in the wet and the cold during a pandemic,” he said.

“That said, it does signal a very clear intention and alignment now with the park board and city council to see folks who are currently camping in Strathcona Park, given proper housing.”

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Click to play video: 'Another disturbing incident at Vancouver’s Strathcona Park homeless camp'
Another disturbing incident at Vancouver’s Strathcona Park homeless camp

The Strathcona Park tent city has been in place for about eight months, and has become a flashpoint with local residents.

In a statement, the Strathcona Residents Association said it was “relieved” to see a timeline from the province.

Read more: Man stabbed inside tent in Strathcona Park but was only found 8 hours later: police

“The wet, squalid and unsafe conditions in the encampment have increasingly become more pronounced,” the group said.

“The multiple deaths, assaults, thefts and unsafe conditions for both campers and the broader Strathcona community are unacceptable, and we expect more from our leaders in addressing these complex and tough issues.”

The group said it expects the province to follow through on the April goal.

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