City of Vancouver seeks end to Oppenheimer encampment

Vancouver City Hall
September 25 2014 –

The City has filed materials in support of an application in BC Supreme Court for an injunction to begin the dismantling of the camp at Oppenheimer Park.

In addition to worsening weather, health and safety conditions at the camp have deteriorated, and it has become necessary for the City to take action to:

  • Ensure the safety and well-being of those within the park
  • Return the park to its intended use for residents and local organizations

Since the beginning, the camp in Oppenheimer Park has always been in violation of the City’s Park bylaws. Camping is not allowed and neither is creating structures in parks because these create barriers and safety concerns for other residents who want to use and enjoy the park space. 

Shelter spaces available for those in Oppenheimer Park

The City is moving forward with an expanded housing and homelessness strategy to ensure that people who are street homeless across Vancouver, including those at Oppenheimer Park, have access to housing. Recent initiatives include the opening of 70 new shelter spaces at 900 Pacific and Union Gospel and 157 new interim housing units at 1335 Howe, which will open in early November. For those in Oppenheimer Park who wish to move to the shelter, spaces are now available. VPD, VFRS, Parks, Engineering, and City Housing outreach staff are at the park to assist with relocation of people and their belongings.

City staff continue to work with BC Housing to house the homeless

Over the last nine weeks, BC Housing and the City outreach staff have placed 40 homeless campers from the Park into existing housing options. A further 50 individuals remain on the wait list for housing and upwards of 50 more may also be homeless at Oppenheimer Park. A move to a shelter is a first and important step in stabilizing individuals and connecting them with supports before they move directly into housing. Over the past six years, approximately 500 people who were homeless have transitioned through the emergency shelters into permanent housing.

In addition to these recent housing initiatives, the City continues to work with BC Housing on our shared homelessness initiative. Since March 2014, approximately 200 homeless individuals in the city have been housed in supportive housing and interim housing facilities.

New supportive housing sites to open in mid-October and December

Over the coming weeks, three new supportive housing sites, Broadway and Fraser and 111 Princess both opening in mid-October and Taylor Manor opening in December, will provide a further 249 units to accommodate homeless individuals, along with much needed health support. All of this additional capacity will ensure that those who are street homeless can have access to shelter, interim or permanent housing over the coming months.

Concerns by camp leadership are being addressed as part of other City initiatives

Throughout the past weeks, senior City officials have met with camp leadership on a regular basis to discuss their concerns. At the same time, the City has been working with the Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Fire and Rescue to closely monitor the park on a 24 hour basis to ensure that health and safety were maintained for those in the park and the neighbourhood.

Camp leadership has consistently outlined their main issues as being linked to homelessness, conditions of SROs and an Aboriginal Healing Centre. The City has been working on all of these issues as part of wider initiatives such as the:

  • DTES Plan actions
  • Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health
  • Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency
  • City’s Homelessness Strategy

Find out how we are trying to end street homelessness by 2015

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