Homeless in Vancouver: People living in vehicles don’t get ticketed—their vehicles do, says city

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      My request for factual information from the City of Vancouver regarding the January 25 forced displacement of people living in vehicles along the elbow of Evans Avenue and Glen Drive has so far resulted in two responses.

      Margo Harper, replying for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, emailed to say that the park board had no record of complaining to bylaw enforcement about the homeless people living in vehicles near the Evans work yard and she asked to be provided with any details (apparently over and above what was already included in my January 30 post) regarding “negative interactions.”

      We understand from City colleagues that homeless outreach staff have repeatedly visited RV’s in recent weeks and there was enforcement on Jan 25th. Our staff were not involved in enforcement which is the responsibility of the City.

      My request for a statement from the City of Vancouver’s bylaw enforcement department resulted instead in the following softball from the city’s community services department:

      The City is aware of individuals living in RVs in a few different locations throughout Vancouver and the Homeless Outreach team have been out regularly knocking on vehicle windows, speaking to people, offering assistance, and leaving contact information. The outreach team has been successful in moving people living in vehicles off the street and into housing and they continue to work with others to do the same. To date, they have housed 10 individuals sleeping in vehicles in the last year, and have also provided income, shelter or health services for 10 others.

      It is not City policy to ticket people living in their vehicles, however illegally parked vehicles of any kind are subject to the street and traffic by-law that governs all parking. We are actively working to create effective and empathetic solutions to the current housing crisis, and are committed to finding long-term housing solutions for Vancouver’s residents.

      Regarding, the camper vans along Evans Ave. and Glenn Drive, the Outreach team attended the location at the request of Parking Enforcement, who were receiving a number of complaints from residents and businesses in and around Grandview Highway and Rupert Street areas. The outreach team has visited the area twice in the last week to speak with individuals and to offer supports.

      I’m sure that we are all glad to be told that outreach teams are actively trying to bring health, housing and other social services to homeless vehicle dwellers across Vancouver—although I’m wondering about the distinction made between housing and shelter. (Are we talking permanent roofs over the heads of 10 people versus temporary emergency shelter beds for up to 10 others?)

      However, I expect that all of this will come as news to my homeless, formerly RV-dwelling friend Francis.

      Francis had been living for two weeks in a six-metre motor home (or roues-à-terre, if you will),  parked for five months on Evans Avenue, just around the bend from Glen Drive. According to him, the January 25 ultimatum to move the motor home (or face getting a ticket later the same day) came without any advance warning.

      In the two weeks prior to the arrival of the man wearing the orange safety vest who delivered the verbal eviction order, no outreach teams visited the informal car camp and/or knocked on the door of Francis’s motorhome—at least not so far as he noticed.

      Neither did he see any warning signs, or”sorry we missed you” cards from outreach teams tucked under the big RV’s windshield wipers, or taped to any of its doors.

      And the area around the elbow of Evans Avenue and Glen Drive, where the various van and RV dwellers were rousted from on January 25, is entirely zoned light industrial—there are no residents to annoy and relatively few businesses. By far, the largest occupant in close proximity to the elbow is the City of Vancouver’s park board Evans work yard at 955 Evans Avenue, with its dominating street frontage of over 300 metres.

      The Grandview Highway and Rupert Street areas mentioned in the community services department’s statement are in a residential neighbourhood full of both residents and businesses but it is located nearly 3 kilometres east of the elbow of Evans and Glen!

      At the time of writing I am still looking forward to receiving a response from Ethel Whitty, the City of Vancouver’s director of services for the homeless since 2014 and the person in charge of coordinating the city’s outreach efforts.