COPE's Jean Swanson seeks council's support to help Oppenheimer Park campers and keep shelters open

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      When Jean Swanson was elected to Vancouver city council last year, she said that helping the homeless would be one of her top priorities.

      The long-time antipoverty activist has two motions that reflect this on the (Tuesday) February 26 council agenda.

      The first seeks asks council to direct staff to work with B.C. Housing to keep winter shelters open year-round on a 24/7 basis.

      "All residents should have a safe warm place to come inside during all months in order to provide mental and physical health," her motion states. "Winter shelters with almost 300 beds are scheduled to close on March 31, 2019."

      Swanson's motion notes that B.C. Housing's waiting list has more than 4,000 households.

      The motion also points out that people are required to leave some shelters during the day and many have nowhere to go except the streets.

      Coun. Jean Swanson thinks that far more needs to be done to level the playing field for the homeless.
      Yolande Cole

      The second motion deals with the 80 to 100 people who've been camping in Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside in subzero temperatures.

      According to this motion, there have been reports of pneumonia.

      Another of Swanson's concerns is that park washrooms are only open until 5 p.m

      "Campers cannot safely leave their belongings to go to shelters, emergency response shelters or warning centres or to the hospital for fear of having their belongings thrown away," the motion states.

      It calls on council to direct staff to work with B.C. Housing to rent a hotel or motel to provide housing for Oppenheimer Park "patrons".

      In the interim, the motion adds, council should "direct staff to acquire or implement a warming station in Oppenheimer Park with large heated tents, staffed with Peer Workers to help ensure safety and cleanliness".

      It also sees council's support for directing staff to provide storage for belongings, plus washroom facilities.