Decampment forces dozens out of Oppenheimer Park during coldest week of winter

As park rangers and Vancouver Police moved in on an encampment at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park Tuesday morning, unhoused people living in tents say they had their belongings forcibly taken away. Cecilia Hua reports.

During a frigid Tuesday morning eviction at Oppenheimer Park, dozens of people sheltering there were told to pack up by Vancouver park rangers mid-way through one of the coldest weeks of winter.

More than 20 tents were taken down and belongings were discarded, leaving some individuals feeling angry and humiliated.

Ryan Sudds, an organizer with StopTheSweeps, believes these winter decampments not only endanger lives but also hinder people’s search for shelter.

“The process is so absurd and cruel,” Sudds told CityNews.

“People could go to a line-up and wait for a shelter, but they can’t leave their stuff, because the park rangers will take it. So, the problem with these sweeps is it’s actually stopping people from seeking housing, and getting into shelters [the city says] are there for people.”

Vancouver city workers, alongside VPD officers, enforced the eviction under the Park Control Bylaw, which prohibits daytime camping in almost every park in the city.

Arctic outflows are bringing cooler temperatures to the Lower Mainland this week, with daytime highs of -3°C to -5°C for some parts of the region in the coming days.

In a statement to CityNews, the City of Vancouver did not directly address questions asked, but mentioned ongoing collaboration with the province to establish long-term housing solutions.

“The City of Vancouver continues to work in partnership with the Government of British Columbia, including BC Housing, to respond to homelessness by building longer-term supportive and social housing, and activating emergency shelter spaces, as well as by advocating for adequate income, health, and housing support in communities across the region,” the statement reads.

Sudds claims four people’s belongings were thrown away early Tuesday morning.

“Charles had all of his belongings taken this morning, he had packed everything up, and it’s all gone now. I don’t what to tell Charles,” Sudds said.

The city did indirectly respond to that claim, stating items are only discarded if deemed soiled or drug-related.

Despite ongoing concerns, the city has said its workers are committed to daily visits to Oppenheimer Park, leaving unanswered questions about the plight of those affected.

In November, StopTheSweeps urgently appealed for a winter eviction moratorium, a plea that, according to Sudds, has been blatantly ignored.

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