Community groups put forth recommendations to help unhoused people on the DTES

Community groups in the Downtown Eastside are putting forward nine recommendations to multiple layers of government, hoping to help those who are unhoused in Vancouver this winter. Kate Walker reports.

Community groups in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) are putting forward nine recommendations to multiple layers of government in hopes of helping those who are unhoused in Vancouver this winter. They gathered on Thursday to draw attention to the neighbourhood’s needs.

One change being advocated is for tiny home villages to be built, specifically in the parking lot next to CRAB Park.

Another suggestion: more accessible restrooms. Heart Tattoo Society Project Manager Gary Davison wants more mobile washrooms and shower facilities to give people “a fundamental right to address their needs for hygiene and wound care.”

Lived Experience Leadership Network Member Phoenix Winter is calling on both the provincial and local municipal government to find more sites for modular housing or extend the leases of currently functional modular housing.

Steve Heden is among those unhoused right now and he says he’s been searching for a permanent place to call home. He tells CityNews he’s been braving the elements in Vancouver – waking up in a soaking wet tent.

“Been in a tent for the last two months. Diabetic, insulin-dependent, I have a young dog … It sucks, last night was a monsoon,” he said. “I’m literally going to die in this tent. Is that what has to happen for this province to change?”

Carnegie Housing Project Manager Devin O’Leary says, with hundreds of people currently unhoused, “it’s an emergency situation outside.”

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be putting all hands on deck to get people inside,” he added.

Some recommendations include adding 500 to 1,500 more shelter beds with help from the province.

The Overdose Prevention Society (OPS) says daily visits in the winter range from 900 to 1000, a stark increase compared to 200 to 300 in the summer. OPS Manager Trey Helton says there just aren’t enough shelter beds available to provide the support needed this time of year.

“One of the most frustrating parts of my job at OPS is when someone comes down who is newly homeless, they can’t find a shelter to go to at night, but when they can find a shelter, the shelters close during the day,” he said.

A letter was sent to the province from organizations on Tuesday outlining all nine of their recommendations.

BC Housing tells CityNews they are funding 5,000 shelter spaces in 50 communities throughout the province, including permanent, temporary, and extreme weather response. These shelters include 387 spaces in the DTES and 603 in Vancouver.

They say in total they’ve opened or renovated nearly 386 spaces since August 2022.

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