Homeless campers bring protest to Vancouver City Hall

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      A visit to City Hall from activists and homeless people camping in Oppenheimer Park has prompted the formation of a new committee to advocate for more senior-government support for housing.

      The demonstrators, holding banners with messages like “homes now”, showed up at the last regular council meeting before the summer break today (July 22).

      City staff met with them to discuss their concerns, which include homelessness and conditions in Downtown Eastside single-room-occupancy hotels.

      Following the meeting, the activists said the city has agreed to keep the washrooms in Oppenheimer Park open 24 hours a day but they are still being asked to take down their tents.

      “Basically, they’re saying that if we have our pillows and our blankets, we can sleep on the ground,” Cee Jai Julian told reporters.

      Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang said the demonstrators have legitimate concerns about the state of housing in the city.

      “Many of them felt disempowered…they’re living in squalor, in many cases, and they wanted to make sure that we understood that, and I heard that very loud and clear,” he stated.

      Jang said he and councillor Andrea Reimer will sit as city-council liaisons on the committee to “address their immediate housing concerns as quickly as we can, as well as long-term solutions”.

      City manager Penny Ballem said that although the protestors have the right to be in the park, “it’s the structures that are the issue under our bylaws”.

      She noted that she has asked staff to look into addressing concerns like mice and bedbugs in SROs.

      “Bedbugs is certainly an issue that, of all the issues that impact people living in SROs, I think that’s probably the most significant, and it’s one that is obviously a health issue,” Ballem told reporters.

      A spokesperson for the campers, Brody Williams, told the Straight on July 21 that the protestors have no intention of removing their tents from Oppenheimer Park.


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      Jul 22, 2014 at 11:28pm


      B-In an interview,KERRY Jang suggested it is Vision Vancouver’s dedication to ending homelessness that has brought protesters to Vancouver..
      “They come to the city because they see we are trying to make a dent in this,”KERRY Jang said.



      Jul 23, 2014 at 5:17am

      You mean that letting developers turn Vancouver into a resort of luxury condos for the world's rich isn't helping the homeless? Who would have guessed?

      If you really care about this problem don't vote Vision (or the NPA) next election. This problem will not be solved by developer giveaways.


      Jul 23, 2014 at 8:20am

      "City manager Penny Ballem said that although the protestors have the right to be in the park, “it’s the structures that are the issue under our bylaws”."

      What Ballem & VISION won't tell you, is that that bylaw is unconstitutional. R. V Adams proved that, it's just that no homeless person has had the $$$ to take this bylaw to a Supreme Court challenge.
      The people who run this city are hiding behind an illegal civic statute. Nothing more, nothing less.

      10 9Rating: +1

      Jon Q. Publik

      Jul 23, 2014 at 9:52am

      Housing shouldn't be an issue handled by municipal politics. It isn't something that can be solved on a city level anyone believing this is dumb. The NPA should hammer Gregor and Vision on this point, as this is one of his weakest platforms, the fact that he is totally going to miss the 2015 target to "solve" street homelessness needs to be exploited more.

      Also I strongly doubt that the people currently in the park have sent a letter to the Parks Board GM requesting the right to demonstrate in the park which is in clear contravention of section 8 of the Parks Bylaw (that restricts public demonstration without written consent), so really don't understand why Bellam thinks the protesters have a right to be in the park.

      8 11Rating: -3

      Two Issues

      Jul 23, 2014 at 10:13am

      I see two issues.

      1.) The entitlement people feel they have towards being "owed" housing.

      2.) The City making a promise they could not keep "eliminate homelessness in vancouver by 2015" - Gregor Robinson.

      Funny, buy im niether on the side of the city or the activists.

      I believe politicians shouldnt lie, and in addition I believe our city (the tax payers) are not in debt to people who choose to live in vancouver, but cant afford it.

      11 9Rating: +2

      Scott Clark

      Jul 23, 2014 at 10:29am

      Conditions are bad in Vancouver's DTES for housing we all know this. City of Vancouver (CoV) can and must hold all private and public housing groups accountable to provide safe, suitable, and affordable housing for our most vulnerable in all CoV's 24 communities.Perhaps what I find most interesting is how these advocates do not go and direct their attention to the federal government, particularly Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC), who only fund social housing to the on reserve Indigenous population, almost 80% of all Indigenous peoples (Status, Non Status, Inuit, and Metis) live off reserves throughout Canada. Over 50% of the off reserve population reside in large metropolitan areas like the Lower Mainland.As I understand it cities who are subject to the federal-provincial devolution process only receive 0.08 cents on the tax dollar and are expected to address the housing crisis is ridiculous. As Indigenous people the federal government continues to tell us our rights are minimized once we live off their reservations. This policy is upheld by both the federal Liberal and Conservative governments throughout all of Canadian history, and I suspect if the NDP ever became government they would continue this colonial policy. At the end of the day, we will be having a federal election likely in mid 2015 and it would be prudent for all Indigenous advocates and supporters to take these issues to the appropriate government level and Ministries, not just for our rights as off reserve Indigenous peoples, but on behalf of all vulnerable Canadian citizens, we need a meaningful national housing strategy that enables all vulnerable peoples to live in safe, suitable,and affordable housing in all communities that enable vulnerable populations to stabilize their lives and move out of the cycle of charity towards empowerment.

      8 13Rating: -5


      Jul 23, 2014 at 10:44am

      @occupy medic

      I looked up R. v. Adams SCC and it is not about homeless camping, at all. Do you mean Victoria v. Adams 2008 BCSC 1363, which is about homeless camping?

      In that ruling, the court found that it was unconstitutional to make a bylaw that would effectively deprive citizens of shelter, due to a deficiency of public shelters.

      The court declined to find that there is a positive onus on the state to provide housing, much less that there is an automatic and unlimited right to camp out in a public park!

      7 8Rating: -1


      Jul 23, 2014 at 11:30am

      @RUK: Does not change the fact that Vancouver's 'no camping' bylaw is unconstitutional, it's IDENTICAL language to the one shot down in the case we've cited. Just as the park bylaw cited by Jon Q. Publik would not withstand a charter challenge. In both cases, they are bylaws, the penalty for which is essentially a parking ticket. They carry about as much weight as Gregor's promise to end homelessness.

      7 9Rating: -2


      Jul 23, 2014 at 12:33pm

      It's only unconstitutional to ban park camping if the effect is to deny a fundamental right (in this case, security of the person).

      If the park campers in Vancouver, unlike those in Victoria, do have shelter space available (and I don't know whether there are beds for them or not), then I don't think that Victoria (City) v. Adams 2008 applies here.

      And, certainly, you have no basis whatsoever to proclaim that cities are constitutionally forbidden from making bylaws about land use. Indeed, decisions on land use are *the main responsibility* assigned to municipal gov't in Canada.

      As for Gregor's promise to end homelessness, he did amend it to 'street homelessness' and then did admit that it wasn't going to happen without other levels of gov't funding - which he has been stumping for.

      You'd rather that the Mayor of Vancouver DID NOT make homelessness an issue?

      Thanks to Vision, homelessness is an issue that all the other parties have to address.

      As for the uselessness of trying to fine people with no money, I totally agree. But cite the city's alternatives. Can they jail people?

      9 10Rating: -1


      Jul 23, 2014 at 2:23pm

      As for alternatives, unpaid fines can lead to jail time. However, I think they know that the first time they tried it they would be hauled into court by PIVOT. Not to mention that both are thoroughly callous "solutions" to long-entrenched symptoms of social problems.

      As for those saying housing is only the responsibility of the province and the feds - those times are over. Both levels have abdicated their responsibilities.

      We have two choices - admit defeat and insist nothing can be done without the other two levels - or get innovative. COPE has done a ton of work looking at international best practices in terms of cities building and maintaining high quality social housing. It's not a fairy-tale. There are ways to fund it. Sadly, it would also break the monopoly private developers have in Vancouver and that is politically unpalatable for Vision AND the NPA.

      Of course you know where I am going with this - COPE's Housing Authority plan. www.cope.bc.ca/housing.pdf.

      Check it out. It is possible.

      8 9Rating: -1