Campers at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park asked to remove all structures by Wednesday

Photo by Sukhwant Singh Dhillon

THE general manager of Vancouver Park Board on Monday provided notice to people who have erected tents and other structures in Oppenheimer Park that they must remove all structures by 6 p.m. on Wednesday, August 21.

At the request of the City, BC Housing has identified more than 100 units of safe and stable accommodation for people experiencing homelessness who have been sleeping overnight in the park and who have engaged with the City’s Homeless Outreach team (Carnegie Outreach) seeking housing assistance. All of the housing options are in publicly owned and non-profit run buildings, including SRO (single-room-occupancy) rooms, many of which have been recently renovated. A number of shelter spaces are also available as an option for individuals to come inside while suitable housing is identified, according to a press statement.

The general manager’s order was issued in response to ongoing concerns about the serious health and life safety risks present in the park, and in light of housing options being secured for those living there.

The City, Park Board and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) have been working in the park for many months to support individuals experiencing homelessness. A Fire Chief’s order has been in place since February which sets out a number of conditions to reduce the fire hazard for people living in the park, but compliance with that order has been limited. There have been 17 fires in the park since February. The Vancouver Police Department has also expressed concern regarding the number of violent incidents occurring in the park.

Carnegie Outreach continues to be on site daily, working to support individuals to access housing and shelter, income and other support services. To help people with the transition, BC Housing has a team in the park to support people packing and transporting their belongings, once an offer is accepted. Park Board staff are offering longer-term storage options for any possessions that individuals are not able to move to their new space right away.

“The safety of the people sleeping in Oppenheimer Park continues to be our top priority and we are strongly encouraging everyone to work with Carnegie Outreach to move into safe and stable accommodation,” said the City.