Homeless Camp Refuses to Leave 'City Property'

Homeless refuse order to leave East Vancouver park

By Christina Montgomery, The Province
Published: Friday, October 31, 2008

Six of 11 homeless people ordered off a corner of city land this week drew a line in the cold, wet dirt and abandoned camp litter Thursday -- and put their tents back up.

By about 1 p.m., just before rain began to fall, they had put up four tents or tarps under the watchful eye of nearby police and city officials.

An hour later, after some stark statements to city engineering staff -- "If you're here to tell us we can't even have a tent over our heads, you need to look at yourself" -- they were told they could leave the tents that had already been set up but not erect more until further city instructions arrived.

Two more hours later, they were told the tents had to go. They didn't, and police didn't move in.

The group say had been living on the site, tucked into an industrial corner at the end of Terminal Avenue, since Aug. 5 with the permission of Al Draycott, who works for the city's tenant-assistance program.

Their handwritten logs record Draycott's visits and instructions.

On Monday, they say, city crews arrived to order them off them off the site and take away the belongings they couldn't carry with them. They had been warned Friday the move was coming, they say.

Jennifer Young, a city spokeswoman, told The Province Thursday that the city had been doing routine inspections of the site "for months" and had never given permission for the campers to stay, which would be a violation of city bylaws.

The group was moved this week -- on Tuesday, not Monday -- after being chased off repeatedly, she said.

"Tuesday was a routine inspection," Young said.

Draycott did not return Province calls.

City shelter spokesmen could not be reached last night about any empty beds were available.

Kim Kerr, executive director of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, said six of the 11 campers asked him group for help and were temporarily sheltered in his building's common room.

Kerr, who returned to the campsite with them, said they were unable to stay with DERA because allowing them to sleep in the lobby violated the agency's housing agreement with the province.

"I don't feel good leaving them her [in the rain] tonight. I have a warm home to go to. This isn't easy," he said

Kerr argued that although tents were better than no shelter at all, the immediate solution should be to provide more city shelters.

He also called on the NPA's Peter Ladner and COPE/Vision Vancouver's Gregor Robertson, the two mayoral hopefuls in next month's election, take a position on what should be done last night with the six campers.

Robertson spokesman Ian Baillie said the situation underlined the need for more temporary shelters, which he has called for -- but that camping on city lots is not the answer.

Ladner spokesman Michael Meneer said Ladner has been under the impression that the group had been given temporary shelter with DERA, but that he supported the bylaw banning camping on public land and believed the solution lay in more permanent social housing, not temporary shelters.

© The Vancouver Province 2008