Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park empty of people and tents, officials clean site

The province says it has met its two-week deadline to move people in Vancouver from a tent encampment in the Downtown Eastside to more secure housing.

On April 25, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions enacted an order to move homeless people living in tent-city encampments in Vancouver and Victoria into more permanent spaces for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order came under the Emergency Program Act and the ongoing provincial state of emergency. The province said moving people into spaces like hotel rooms would help reduce the chance of an outbreak of coronavirus among Vancouver and Victoria’s most vulnerable people.

The province said it found 686 hotel and community centre spaces in Vancouver to house people, and 324 hotel spaces in Victoria, in partnership with non-profits and municipalities.

It gave a May 9 deadline to move people.

As of Sunday, close to 300 people were gone from Oppenheimer Park and the surrounding area in Vancouver.

The site was blocked off with fencing and workers were clearing debris left in the park.

Crews remove debris from Oppenheimer Park on Sunday May 10, 2020. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

More time needed in Victoria

This week Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson said the province was extending the deadline in Victoria to give more time to help people transition.

The new deadline is now May 20.

As of Saturday, B.C. Housing said 106 people had moved from the Topaz and Pandora corridor in Victoria.

During the transition the province said it is also working on plans for longer-term permanent housing solutions with ongoing support beyond the pandemic.

Housing advocates welcomed the plan to place people living tent cities in more appropriate housing, but said it was also an opportunity to change housing policy.

The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association is calling on the federal government to look at establishing a permanent acquisition program, turning temporary properties in to full-time housing.

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