Advocates for homeless people sheltering in Vancouver’s CRAB park are calling on the city’s park board to remove fencing around a shaded area as B.C. roasts in another heatwave.
“We’re going into another extreme heat period, this is the second one of the summer,” advocate Fiona York said.
“People are sheltering here in the park, but they’re sheltering in an area that doesn’t have very much tree cover, so they’re under very intense heat. We know from last year’s heatwave that it can be very dangerous, it can be very deadly.”
About 70 people are currently sheltering in the park, according to York.
Homeless people are already vulnerable, she said, and many are seniors or have chronic health issues that put them at higher risk in the hot weather.
At issue is metal fencing installed around the treeline in the park’s southwest corner in April. The fences were installed after campers were moved from that part of the park to a peninsula in the northwest corner in order to remediate the grass, according to York.
She took her concerns to the park board last month, she said, but was told people can use the park’s gazebo to get out of the sun if they need.
“The gazebo is nice, but it’s pretty hard to fit 70 people under,” advocate John Jukes added. “Here there’s a lot of trees and it’s spread out.”
Several encampments have formed in the area of CRAB Park in recent years, with the most recent incarnation now in place for more than a year. In January, a B.C. Supreme Court judge refused to grant an injunction allowing the park board to clear the encampment.
In a statement to Global News on Thursday, the Vancouver Park Board said an area in CRAB Park is “currently closed for remediation due to items found embedded in the soil. While this area offers some shade, there are other areas in the park that provide shade as well.”
They said park rangers and city outreach staff perform wellness checks on those living in the park and hand out water.
They also provided people with information on cooling centres and other nearby services and mister and running drinking water are also available on site to help people keep cool, the board said in a statement.