Park board GM given authority to seek injunction to clear Strathcona homeless camp

Injunction last used in 2014 to dismantle Oppenheimer Park encampment

The park board and City of Vancouver have developed a “decampment plan” for Strathcona Park that could include seeking a court injunction to clear the park | File photo: Mike Howell

Vancouver park board commissioners have given the board’s general manager the authority to seek a court injunction to clear the Strathcona Park homeless encampment, if the board and city are unable to find other ways to move people into housing and shelters.

The board gave Donnie Rosa the green light to begin the process to seek an injunction in a Nov. 16 in-camera meeting held to develop a “decampment plan” to move people out of the city’s largest homeless camp.

The park board released the minutes of the in-camera meeting Monday in a news release.

Seeking an injunction, however, is not imminent, with the park board and city first working on a plan that aims to move people into “temporary indoor spaces,” including the city-owned 2400 Motel on Kingsway and the Jericho Hostel and Jericho Beach.

“Once indoor spaces are available for people staying in Strathcona Park, the park board has authorized general manager Donnie Rosa to enforce the parks control bylaw prohibition against overnight camping in the park,” the release said. “However, the goal of all of the partners is to work together and with people experiencing homelessness in the park to support their voluntary transition indoors.”

The parks control bylaw is different from an injunction in that it is not a tool approved by a judge. The bylaw was not used during the most recent Oppenheimer Park encampment, which ended in the spring.

Neither was an injunction, with homeless people only moved into hotels and other forms of shelter in April and May after the provincial government issued a public safety order related to COVID-19 under the Emergency Program Act.

The last time the park board sought an injunction to clear a homeless camp was in 2014 to dismantle a previous encampment set up in Oppenheimer Park. Police, with the assistance of park rangers and city workers, cleared the camp while members of Pivot Legal Society observed on a day that saw five people arrested.

Housing was found for the majority of campers.

The release said the city has identified several properties that can be used as temporary spaces to bring people inside. Other than the 2400 Motel and Jericho Hostel, the park board nor the city has identified other properties.

However, Mayor Kennedy Stewart told Glacier Media Nov. 10 that city staff were close to securing hotels, rental buildings and shelter space to provide accommodation for some of the estimated 750 people living on the street, including up to 200 living in Strathcona Park.

In October, council voted to spend up to $30 million to assist in buying and leasing hotels and other buildings to serve as temporary — and possibly permanent — housing for people living on the streets.

Since then, the city has also applied to the federal government for undisclosed projects worth $51.5 million. The federal government said the money can be used for the construction of modular housing, as well as the acquisition of land and the conversion of existing buildings to affordable housing.

The city confirmed last week that it now owns the Balmoral and Regent hotels, which are both deemed unsafe to occupy. It could be years before the hotels are either renovated or razed for new housing.

mhowell@glaciermedia.ca

@Howellings