B.C.’s attorney general says there are “more than enough spaces” to get everyone sheltering in the Strathcona Park homeless camp indoors by a provincially imposed deadline of Friday morning.
David Eby said as of Thursday, about 200 people from the camp had been housed, 74 of them in the last two days alone.
“It’s hard to tell, but there’s about 40 people left on the site yet to be housed,” Eby told Global News.
The spaces on offer are a mixture of “high-quality, self-contained units” in hotels the province has purchased, and shelters that Eby pledged would be “good, dignified spaces.”
“They have pods, private pods with areas to store belongings, walls, privacy,” he said.
While the buildings the camp’s homeless will be moved to are owned by the province or the city, Eby said they will be temporary transitional housing.
Eby also pledged that once the Strathcona Park encampment has been removed, the province has an agreement with the city to ensure new camps don’t simply pop up elsewhere, as has repeatedly been the case in Vancouver.
“The province commits, for our part, to make available spaces to respond when people set up tents and parks so that when park board officials or city officials show up and say, ‘Sorry, you can’t stay here,’ that there are meaningful opportunities for people to come inside,” he said.
While the minister was confident about the decampment process, camp residents have given it “D” grade, according to the Pivot Legal Society.
In a “human rights report card” the group said the poor grade was the result of campers not being regarded as rights holders, a failure to respect the distinct rights of Indigenous people, the threat of forced eviction from the camp and the failure to provide affordable, long-term housing to residents.
“This report card is a clear statement from tent city residents that government actors need to slow down and do better. Despite the government narrative, the resident experience is clearly not of an ethical eviction, nor one that is trauma-informed and respects their rights and dignity,” Pivot lawyer Anna Cooper said in a media release.
“It is possible to provide people with adequate, rights-based housing without resorting to coercive, colonial tactics and further displacement – residents could tell the government how, but they need to be prepared to actually listen.”
The group says the city’s homeless and advocates were not included in discussions around the province’s agreement with Vancouver and Victoria to prevent future homeless encampments from forming.