Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside getting 330 housing spaces: Minister

B.C.’s Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says the provincial government will be opening over 330 housing spaces for people living in tents on the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

“This plan aims to help people get off the street into homes and make the Downtown Eastside a healthier and safer and a more hopeful place for everyone,” said Kahlon.

He explains the DTES currently has 117 people sheltering outside, and 70 of them have expressed a desire for housing.

July 2022 saw Vancouver Fire Rescue Services Chief Karen Fry issue an order to remove all of the tents and structures along Hastings. The City of Vancouver, Indigenous governments, and community organizations then spent time putting together the Downtown Eastside Response Plan, which is aimed at finding housing for all in the area experiencing homelessness.

Fry reiterated her concern and called for action again earlier in March.

City of Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim says getting these people in safe homes and “addressing the humanitarian crisis that is going on in the Downtown Eastside” is something they’re taking steps toward.

“Every single day, we do hear heartbreaking stories related to vandalism, and theft, and overdose deaths, and tent fires, and increasing acts of violence, and sexual abuse — especially against women, and especially against Indigenous women,” he said.

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The 330 new homes for DTES residents include “two new temporary supportive housing projects,” as well as a mix of renovated single room occupancy (SRO) units, and supportive homes.

These new spaces should all be open by the end of June according to the announcement..

In the meantime, Kahlon is encouraging people living on the streets to accept housing offers as the city continues working to decamp people in tents along East Hastings.

“The majority of those sheltering outside have already been and continue to be offered spaces indoors,” Kahlon added.

The province says 90 people have already accepted housing offers, and the amount of temporary structures alongside the DTES has gone down from 180 to 74.

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While costs for this housing have yet to be revealed to the public, Kahlon says the information will be made available soon.

“I want to be very clear, despite all the great things that are going on, these challenges will not be solved overnight, they will still take time,” Sim added.

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