The B.C. government has signed a “historic” but ambitious agreement with the City of Vancouver and the park board to end the Strathcona Park homeless camp by the end of April and prevent future encampments in the city.
The memorandum of understanding announced Monday sets out some lofty goals considering the city’s history of encampments and the failure of previous governments to respond to Vancouver’s ever-growing homelessness crisis.
One of the key commitments from the provincial government is written on page three of the document, which reads:
“To work with government partners to fund and develop temporary and permanent housing options to reduce the number of unsheltered residents in parks and public spaces to zero and to create flow in established shelter and supportive housing.”
The city’s main role in the agreement will be to provide land for housing or shelter “and to expedite land use decisions necessary to rapidly respond to housing need,” the document said.
The park board also must enforce its parks control bylaw to keep people from setting up encampments, but only when “suitable spaces are available for people to move indoors.”
The agreement comes after David Eby, B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, promised in February that every person in Strathcona Park would be moved into some form of shelter by the end of April.
'They'll be on the street again'
"I think it's impossible to achieve," said Anna Cooper, staff lawyer with Pivot Legal Society.
"For a short period of time you'll have some people indoors," said Cooper. "Then a bunch of people — that housing won't work for them — they'll be evicted, they'll be banned from a shelter, they'll be on the street again."
Cooper also worries about the hundreds of other homeless people who aren't living at Strathcona Park, and won't be included in this effort to house people. She predicts before long, people will again gravitate to an encampment type of situation.
University of Victoria researcher Bernie Pauly doesn't think there will be enough housing available in the province's capital by the end of the month, despite the promise of 280 supportive housing units coming to the area.
She said she's concerned about public reaction when they inevitably still see unhoused people in Victoria in May.
"My biggest worry is that, you know, some of the backlash is going to land on homeless people instead of on governments," said Pauly.
Pauly told CBC's On The Island on Wednesday that she also worries the province will put people into shelter-like settings in Victoria if they do not have enough individual units by April 30 and that while there would be health and safety measures in place, multiple people living together could create more opportunities for the virus to spread.
"We have a serious situation when we are placing people into congregate settings," she said.
Edited by Victoria Watcher, 07 April 2021 - 02:39 PM.