East Hastings decampment: Where do people go?

After a fire order was issued last summer by Vancouver's fire chief, city police and staff moved in on a tent encampment along East Hastings Street in the city's Downtown Eastside to dismantle about 80 structures.

With the decampment of East Hastings Street continuing in Vancouver, many are still asking where exactly unhoused people are supposed to go.

Parts of the busy Downtown Eastside street were once again closed Thursday as city crews — with police support — continued their work to clear tents and other structures.

The latest effort began Wednesday when dozens of officers and city workers descended on the encampment to enforce a fire chief’s order issued last year.

Vancouver has seen this situation play out before. In recent years, many tent cities have been cleared out, forcing people living in these areas to relocate to other public spaces and parks.

BC Liberals fire back at NDP

BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon says he’s worried this is going to happen again.

“The violence and the chaos on communities throughout this province has never been worse than it is today. And without housing available, those tent encampments will simply move to another park or neighbourhood,” he said in Question Period at the B.C. Legislature Thursday.

“My question to the Premier is: how can anyone trust any of the Premier’s empty announcements when the results are never there when people need them?”

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon insists there are shelter units available for everyone who had been living in the encampment.

“No doubt the situation, in particular around the Hastings encampment, is a challenging one, and yesterday was a challenging day,” he said in response to Falcon.

“I can share with the member that yesterday, the city took some actions on the Downtown Eastside. Part of that: our staff on the ground worked around the clock to find enough housing for everyone that said they needed housing. In fact, I can share with the members today that we have now enough housing, enough shelter spaces available for those that are in the encampments.”

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However, Falcon takes issue with the suggestion that more housing is on the way. He says the BC NDP talks about new housing units but claims “they never appear and never materialize.”

“The reality is that those tent cities just move from one location to another. In fact, that’s actually now official NDP government policy,” the opposition leader continued.

Many of the people who had been living on East Hastings have said they feel safer in tents than in the housing or shelter units they’ve been offered.

In an availability Wednesday, the City of Vancouver also acknowledged the housing situation remains a challenging one with no one simple solution.

A man is seen inside his tent as police officers stand by while city workers clear an encampment on East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Wednesday, April 5, 2023

A man is seen inside his tent as police officers stand by while city workers clear an encampment on East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Wednesday, April 5, 2023. A handful of unhoused people set up tents overnight along a stretch of Vancouver’s Hastings Street that was cleared Wednesday in a co-ordinated effort by city officials and Vancouver police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

“We do recognize in the city, there are more people seeking housing than we have available. That’s absolutely correct,” Vancouver City Manager Paul Mochrie said.

“We have people sheltering outside across the city and, in fact, most of the people in Vancouver who are unsheltered are not on Hastings Street, they’re in other parts of the city. That’s not going to change with today.”

He said the city was going to continue working with the people who were being displaced to offer them shelter.

“I think what we’re seeing here is a situation where this encampment in its current form is clearly unsafe. That’s what we have to deal with today. It’s not going to solve the issue of homelessness,” Mochrie added.

GoFundMe campaign launched to help East Hastings tent residents

Meanwhile, with many people being forced from the encampment area, a fundraiser has been launched to help support those who lost tents and other belongings.

The GoFundMe campaign, set up by the Stop the Sweeps Coalition, has a goal of $25,000. As of Thursday afternoon, 23 hours after it was launched, more than $21,000 had been raised.

“All funds go towards replacing tents and belongings stolen by the City of Vancouver and supporting residents to find shelter,” the page reads.

With files from Charlie Carey

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