Advocate counters that shelters don’t meet the definition of housing, says it’s an end run to empty the park

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The province and city will open two 60-bed temporary shelters in April aimed mostly at giving people living in the tent city at Strathcona park a roof over their heads and 24-hour security.

“We need to get people inside into dignified, supportive shelter as quickly as possible to prevent death or serious injury for those trying to stay warm outside this winter … while we continue to work with our partners to open permanent support housing across the city,” David Eby, the minister responsible for housing, said in a statement.

“This is part of our response to Strathcona, but there will be more to come.”

But one advocate for the 200 or so people living in the Strathcona tent city called Monday’s announcement extremely disappointing.

“It’s just a really cynical end run around the whole idea of providing housing before seeking to de-camp or clear people from the park,” Fiona York said. “Shelters don’t meet the definition of housing.”

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York said she felt progress was being made with Eby and the city about what meets the definition of what safe and secure housing is.

“And here we are with the lowest common denominator of what shelter is. … We just hear this rhetoric of these shelters being defined as safe and secure. It sounds like it’s geared toward external people, not the people it’s meant to serve.

In November, elected park board commissioners voted at an in camera meeting to authorize the general manager of parks, Donnie Rosa, to seek a court injunction to clear Strathcona once enough housing is available for those living in the park.

York hoped that might mean modular housing. “Actual housing.”

One of the new 60-bed shelters, at 15-27 West Hastings St., will open at the end of April. The other, at 875 Terminal Ave., will open a bit earlier in the month.

Non-profit providers will operate the two shelters, with staff on site 24 hours a day for support, plus daily meals, access to laundry and showers, referral to community and health services and help filling out housing applications.

“The new shelters announced today demonstrate that with deep co-operation between all three levels of government, we can provide warm, safe beds for hundreds of residents and connect them to services and programs to support their well-being,” said Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart in a release.

The city owns the Terminal Avenue property, which is being renovated with a $1.8 million federal grant. The West Hastings property, which will also be renovated, is being leased jointly by the city and B.C. Housing.

The cost, which will be covered by B.C. Housing, wasn’t announced because operating models haven’t been finalized, according to a release.

The province says it has opened 1,000 new supportive housing homes, all occupied, since 2017, with 100 temporary spots scheduled to open this summer, along with 350 more planned homes throughout the city.

With a file from Dan Fumano


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