CRAB Park ‘clean-up’ complete, residents set to return

Residents of CRAB Park will be allowed to move back into the space Thursday, after the City of Vancouver’s “clean-up” of the legal encampment came to an end Wednesday.

Originally meant to be completed on Monday, the city says it ran into some delays during its work due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances.

Now, the area has been reportedly “cleaned-up and repaired,” with new features like a fresh gravel surface to improve drainage and prevent muddy conditions.

The city says it has also designated 27 clearly marked 10×10 foot sheltering sites for those who had been originally living in the area as of Feb. 26 and have not already found housing.

New tents and canopies will be supplied through funding from BC Housing, in addition to supplies and canopies for communal areas. This includes food storage and preparation areas, donations storage, and a gathering space.

According to the city, the process over the past week has gone “smoothly.” It adds crews removed more than 90,000 kg of debris, more than 20 propane tanks, and six generators.

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“The Park Board and the city would like to express their appreciation to individuals who were sheltering in the Designated Area who relocated voluntarily,” the city stated.

“Additionally, both organizations would also like to express deep gratitude to the staff and peers of Atira and Lu’ma who provided supports for people through the relocation process and continue to support people as they move back to the Designated Area, as well as to two very engaged community members who worked constructively with both staff and people sheltering in the area.”

The city is making it very clear that those returning to shelter in the area must abide by specific bylaws and guidelines.

That means only those who were living there for more than three nights per week as of Feb. 26 will be allowed to return. Additionally, as residents leave or move into shelters, the city says it will be removing marked-out sheltering spaces from the area. If conditions deteriorate, the sheltering area may also be reduced once again to only allow temporary overnight sheltering — forcing those who stay during the day to leave.

If someone moves into a vacated sheltering space before the city can remove it, that person will be permitted to stay but will not be recognized “as an intended user” by the city.

Throughout the clean-up and debris-clearing process, residents of CRAB Park have expressed skepticism and apprehension about the city’s actions.

Michelle Gagnon-Creely, a volunteer at CRAB Park, told CityNews on Monday the process has evoked fears of past decampments for some people sheltering in the area.

“The way that this has been undertaken with the fencing and the lack of communication, and the city coming in and literally bulldozing, it’s reminiscent to residents of the same strategies that were taken at Strathcona and Oppenheimer,” Gagnon-Creely said.

In 2022, the BC Supreme Court ruled in favour of CRAB Park residents, denying an injunction that would have allowed the Vancouver Park Board to evict residents. It also set aside two orders that prohibit sheltering in the park.

The CRAB Park encampment has seen several evictions affecting dozens of people since 2020, when many people moved into the park in the waterfront area after the tent city at Oppenheimer Park was dismantled and residents were evicted by injunction. One of the factors the court considered in its decision in 2022 was the history of encampments in parks in and near the Downtown Eastside.

With files from Hana Mae Nassar and Charlie Carey

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