VANCOUVER — Advocates for Vancouver’s homeless population are calling on the city to do more after six people were arrested at a relocated homeless camp.
Police were called to Thornton Park on Friday morning, where rangers from the Vancouver Park Board were trying to take down structures that were in contravention of a bylaw, said Staff Sgt. Randy Fincham.
A city bylaw prohibits tents and other structures from being put up in public parks. City spokesman Tobin Postma said some of the structures were also deemed hazardous by the fire department.
The tents went up Thursday night after residents of a nearby homeless camp on city-owned property reached a court-ordered deadline to leave.
Postma said everyone left the original “tent city” site in the Downtown Eastside “peacefully and on their own accord.”
When Postma went to Thornton Park on Friday morning, he said he recognized about three people who had been living at the previous camp.
About 12 tents were set up in the park and about 15 people were there when officers arrived, including a number of demonstrators, Fincham said.
He said seven people refused to follow the directions of city staff and physically interfered when the tents were being dismantled.
Six people were arrested for breach of the peace, and one man was taken into custody for obstruction and resisting arrest.
Police said one man was provided with housing.
Advocates for Vancouver’s homeless population have said tent cities are a response to a lack of social housing.
“With nowhere for these people to go, what are they supposed to do? Where can they sleep? The city and province have failed abysmally to find or build enough housing, let alone appropriate housing,” said a statement from Debra McNaught with the Carnegie Community Action Project.
The statement said the city should find public space with amenities such as sanitation and garbage pick ups where people can camp while social housing is being built.
“It wouldn’t cost the city any more to provide these facilities than it costs them now to tear down tents every morning and move people to other sites,” said volunteer Lama Mugabo.
The city would rather see people staying indoors than tent cities, Postma said, noting that dozens of new shelter spaces will be available next week, including some that allow couples and people with pets.
“Hopefully that will address some of the barriers people have previously said that they face going in to shelters,” he said.
Some residents of the tent city have said they would rather stay on the streets than go to a shelter, but Postma said the facilities are a first step in stabilizing people and finding them long-term housing.
“That’s really the goal of these shelters, to get people there and then we can begin working with them on a regular basis,” he said.
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