VANCOUVER Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Sunday issued the following statement in response to the building occupation at Strathcona Elementary School that resulted in the arrest of 14 people by Vancouver Police:
“Vulnerable residents, especially our neighbours in the Downtown Eastside, are rightfully feeling anxious for their safety. Since the beginning of our COVID-19 response, my number one priority has been to make sure our most vulnerable neighbours, especially those that are underhoused, are safe.
“It’s clear from this action, and the hundreds of conversations I have had with people who work in the Downtown Eastside, that more information is needed about how underhoused and homeless residents can find the shelter they need to stay safe from COVID-19.
“In order to provide clarity and peace of mind, I am asking Minister Shane Simpson – as lead of the cross-ministry team responsible for the Downtown Eastside public health response – to outline his plan for the hundreds of hotel spaces and other shelter beds BC Housing has already secured.
“The City of Vancouver has already taken unprecedented action on our own such as expanding access to sanitation, cleaning SROs, delivering thousands of meals to residents, and supplementing incomes of Downtown Eastside residents who lost work due to the closures.
“We have also worked with provincial government partner agencies to expand access to shelter and enable residents to safely self-isolate – including working with BC Housing to complete 58 modular homes on Copley Street on March 25 and helping expedite the roll out of life-saving access to safe supply.
“Additionally, two community centres are mobilized for emergency response in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Housing.
“As always, we stand ready to work with the Province to quickly implement their plan and are prepared to activate more spaces if the resources needed to staff and operate them are provided.”