New rules for Vancouver's tent city as the housing protest continues to grow

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      A protest calling for affordable housing in Vancouver continues to expand.

      By the Straight’s rough count conducted this morning (September 4), there are now approximately 200 tents pitched in the Downtown Eastside’s Oppenheimer Park.

      Chatting beside a small fire pit, Stella August, a First Nations elder who helps run the camp, told the Straight that number matches her estimate.

      She added that organizers guess there’s an average of two people living in each tent, making for a total of more than 400 campers.

      (The Vancouver Police Department confirmed it keeps an official tent count. A request to share that number was not fulfilled.)

      The City of Vancouver served campers with eviction notices on July 19, a day that’s come to be used as an approximate start date for the protest. But those orders haven’t been enforced.

      One month later, on August 20, the Straight reported that Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang said there are currently no plans to use physical action to remove people from the park. VPD spokesperson Randy Fincham likewise reported the VPD has “not been asked to intervene in this matter at this time”.

      There are, however, new rules for tents pitched in Oppenheimer, which is located on Dunlevy Avenue between Powell and East Cordova streets.

      In response to one tarp catching fire last week, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services began distributing notices on September 3.

      The use of candles and open flames is prohibited (it appears the camp’s central fire pit, which organizers describe as sacred, is an exception).

      There are also new directions for how tents should be erected. They should not be pitched within 30 feet of streets bordering the park. And only one tent is permitted under each tarp—a condition that will likely leave some campers wet with the onset of Vancouver’s fall rains.

      On September 3, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services began distributing a list of new rules for campers living in Oppenheimer Park.
      Travis Lupick

      According to the region’s last homeless count, the number of people sleeping unsheltered on the streets of Vancouver has more than tripled over the past three years, from 154 in 2011 to 536 in 2014.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson, who is up for re-election in November, has promised to end street homelessness by 2015.

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      Sep 4, 2014 at 10:19am

      Soon enough these people will leave their tents and most people will forget about them.

      The housing problem in Vancouver been building since 2003 or so, when prices started rocketing for housing in this city. There have been many calls for improving housing affordability and restricting foreign ownership, and every year, housing prices go higher and higher.

      This protest doesn't mean much. There needs to be action at the federal and provincial level regarding foreign ownership, and no one wants to stop the flow of money to government coffers, no matter how damaging it might be for those who live here.


      Sep 4, 2014 at 10:34am

      Here is a message to protestors. If you want this to work move your protest to kits beach, or a park in point grey. Get the attention you need. Voters dont care what happens on the DTES. You will see there is a different set of rules depending on what part of the city you're in. Change will come from the voting mass, and at this point they could care less if you take over a park in an area they couldnt give a shit about.

      A familiar refrain....

      Sep 4, 2014 at 11:05am

      This is how they do it. Nibbling with tent spacing regulations and tarp rules. The Encampment Committee of the Mayor's Office must not even have to meet in person now, their playbook is so established. Let me guess what's next - tents three feet apart and any tents not three feel apart get tagged for removal. Then they move to shut it down on fire safety grounds.

      They might have a harder time at this one though. What's worse? A tiny risk of fire or sleeping on cold pavement in the middle of a November downpour?

      It's a special kid of callous that can talk about "safety" regulations for people who live on the street otherwise.


      Sep 4, 2014 at 11:15am

      Kinda funny really, these people obviously don't follow rules. Rules only apply to other people, these guys obviously think they are above the law. I think the word is narcissistic.


      Sep 4, 2014 at 11:26am

      "sacred fire" lol


      Sep 4, 2014 at 12:32pm

      It looks like the housing crisis has been solved already. 400 people housed in a small area and more moving in all of the time. People seem pretty content and most are going to be sitting around all day chatting with their friends anyways, so what more do they need? It's true that regular park users have lost their space but they can go fuck themselves. It's that simple.

      Hans Lollengren

      Sep 5, 2014 at 3:07pm

      The city build several social housing buildings with single occupancy rooms intended to be freely available for the homeless, more than enough (a year ago, at least).

      But these users of the social housing units completely trashed the rooms, leaving the rooms with faeces, drug residue, and even human waste (say hello to bedbugs). And you will commonly see, in news articles and interviews, that these protesters complain that the rooms are inhabitable and disgusting.

      What do you expect the government to do? Social housing has been provided before as requested, but the housing units have been irresponsibly trashed and now the responsibility is put onto the government's plate again? This will create an unfair cycle at the expense of people not at fault (eg. the government that invests in social housing and taxpayers).

      TL:DR Clean and new housing was provided, users ruined units, users demanding more clean and new housing again.