‘Tents keep coming, we keep taking them down’: Vancouver Mayor says of East Hastings

Work to clear tents and structures along East Hastings Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside continues, more than a week after the latest displacement effort began.

“The latest there is, we continue to remove structures that are fire hazards on East Hastings. We’re making progress but the tents keep coming up and we keep taking them down,” Mayor Ken Sim told CityNews Friday.

“I want to be very clear: We have an urgent safety issue here. I think we’ve pulled out 1,600 propane tanks, including 100-pounders. If one of these 100-pounders goes off, it will literally take out a city block. So, that’s what we’re trying to address here.”

The continued decampment effort by the city comes after a fire chief’s order was issued last year. The order warned of the safety risks posed by tents and other structures, not just to the people living in them, but to the people living in adjacent buildings and other infrastructure.

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Sim says every person asked to leave the area has a place to go.

“First of all, there are spaces for people to go to. Everyone that’s put up their hand and taken us up on our offer to move into shelter, has received housing solutions,” he said.

On April 5, the City of Vancouver held a media availability after the decampment effort began that day.

City Manager Paul Mochrie at that time acknowledged the housing situation remains a challenging one with no one simple solution.

“We do recognize in the city, there are more people seeking housing than we have available. That’s absolutely correct,” he 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.”

While the displacement effort is being undertaken by city staff, with the support of Vancouver Police officers, some unions have come out against what the city is doing.

Despite this, the mayor says they will move forward.

“A lot of people, members of these unions, they actually support what we’re doing. In fact, they’re celebrating it right now. We can’t comment as to other people’s opinions, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but make no mistake about it, in addition to all of the challenges we have — and people have real issues there that we need to help people out — this is about a fire order,” Sim explained.

“To give people context, we’ve been working on this compassionately for the last eight months. We’ve removed 600 structures leading up to April 5th. For every person that wanted housing, it was provided, so 90 additional people found housing during that time, and everyone who was on the street on April the 5th, they had been offered housing alternatives for months leading up to that time.”

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