Vancouver police say threats issued against Hastings Street campers

Flyers have been distributed warning that tents will be burned if people don't leave the encampment

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      A tense situation in the Downtown Eastside has become even more nerve-wracking for urban campers.

      Today, Vancouver police revealed that someone has distributed flyers in the neighbourhood warning that tents on Hastings Street could be burned with gasoline and propane if the occupants don't leave within seven days.

      “We are working to identify the person or people responsible for these messages, which have understandably caused fear and anxiety in the Downtown Eastside,” Sgt. Steve Addison said in a VPD news release. “Until we know more, we’re asking everyone to be extra vigilant, to look out for their neighbours, and to report suspicious activity.”

      Anyone with information is being urged to call the VPD's major crime section at 604-717-2541.

      Last month, Fire Chief Karen Fry ordered that the tents be removed from sidewalks along Hastings Street due to "urgent safety concerns".

      But people living in the tents and their advocates say that there's nowhere for them to go.

      On Friday (August 12), B.C.'s minister responsible for housing, Murray Rankin, acknowledged that access to new spaces is limited in public housing. 

      "When word came of the impending order from the fire chief, we were clear with the city and fire services that, despite our ongoing efforts to secure additional housing, we did not have access to large numbers of spaces to accommodate the order on short notice," Rankin said in a statement.

      “Outreach teams are offering the limited number of spaces we do have available, and B.C. Housing has further accelerated its efforts to secure new housing and shelter for people on Hastings Street," the minister added. "We are pursuing new sites to lease or purchase and expediting renovations on single-room occupancy (SRO) units as they become vacant, so we can reopen them as soon as possible, remaining mindful that some people are living outside because their current SRO accommodation is challenging, especially in the summer.

      "There are currently dozens of SRO units being assessed for remediation work, and several locations are being explored for additional shelter activation. It is our goal to have a limited number of remediated SRO spaces available next week, with more opening in September and in the fall."