Vancouver community groups offer support for people displaced from East Hastings encampment

It’s been a soggy few days — and various advocates are doing their best to find ways to support the people who have been displaced from tents on Vancouver’s East Hastings Street.

That includes providing clothes and in some cases new tents for those who’ve been told to move on.

In Oppenheimer Park, basic warming shelters have been set up, which are essentially large umbrellas and tarps.

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Using money donated through a GoFundMe, some groups including Stop the Sweeps are giving supplies to unhoused people.

“That money is being used for supplies, for replacement tents, for food, for drivers to help move people’s things,” Vince Tao with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users explained.

Green Party Vancouver City Councillor Pete Fry acknowledges many people have nowhere to go — but says the fire and public safety concerns on East Hastings needed to be addressed.

“While we have folks languishing on the street, it doesn’t really get better,” Fry said. “It only seems to exacerbate more sort of street disorder and dysfunction, and the situation on Hastings was unsafe for everyone, housed and unhoused residents alike.”

Related video: B.C.’s Hospital Employees’ Union calls for end to East Hastings forced displacement

Fry acknowledges significant work is needed to provide housing — and mentioned he supports exploring the “tiny homes” approach.

“The shelter system isn’t really designed to accommodate this sort of volume — and duration — of folks experiencing homelessness,” Fry said. “It’s a bit more of a stopgap. Where I think we’re missing opportunities…is how we get more semi-permanent sheltering as we transition folks into appropriate housing for them, be that supportive housing or complex care, or just affordable housing in better facilities.

“What we know for sure is that the SRO (single-room occupancy) stock, which we’ve relied pretty heavily on, is reaching the end of its useful life.”

As for those who have been displaced, some people are beginning to report tents popping up in various Vancouver neighbourhoods not usually used to having encampments.

Vancouver shelter over capacity since displacement

A Vancouver outreach organization says it is struggling to keep up with an influx of people requiring their services since the forced displacement of East Hastings last week.

Dean Kurpjuweitl, president of the Union Gospel Mission (UGM), says the displacement has led to some tough decisions.

“We’ve actually been at capacity for the last number of months. So, the last few nights we’ve actually had to go over capacity to try and accommodate everybody, and we’ve actually had to turn people away from our shelter,” he said.

The increase in people at the facility, Kurpjuweitl adds, has led to some added strain on operations.

“Everything just kind of gets amplified a little bit more,” he said. “It always causes more challenges when our people are a little bit more in distress. Even our outreach workers are having to do more work.”

Ryan Sudds with Stop the Sweeps says since the forced displacement last week, those involved are approaching their wit’s end.

“It’s been five days now. People are getting angrier and angrier about what’s happening because what’s been happening isn’t fair. I think people are getting discomforted by the weather, they’re also just getting fed up with being treated like this,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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