After over two months of occupying Oppenheimer Park, campers protesting inadequate housing may finally be taking down their tents.
The City of Vancouver announced Thursday announcing it has filed an injunction to the B.C. Supreme Court to dismantle the encampment at the park. The application is scheduled to be heard Monday. The release mentions the decision is in response to the worsening weather and deteriorating health and safety conditions.
Organizers of the encampment were in a private meeting when the Courier visited the park yesterday around 4 p.m., but Dustin Adekat, the encampment’s chef, shared discussions that took place following the city’s announcement.
Adekat said the leaders have decided it was time for the encampment to leave the park and are considering the possibility of relocating to an alternate site. Another reason for the decision was the crime. Signs at the camp indicated the area as a drug and alcohol free zone, but Adekat said drug dealers often came to the park’s edges to “set up shop.”
“It’s not what we’re about,” he said.
Adekat was a Red Seal certified chef on a cruise ship before he moved to the park over a month ago to support the cause. Three meals a day were prepared for over 300 individuals, which included the park’s campers as well as visitors from the area. Donations of food over the past two months came from individuals as well as groups.
“My job is to provide healthy meals,” said Adekat, who lamented having to take down the kitchen they have set up and no longer being able to serve the community at and around the park.
Camper Mike Campbell believes a relocation is likely. Park residents aren’t there to cause trouble and won’t resist if the injunction is ruled, he said.
“They’re just going to start it all over again,” said Campbell.
William Harvey, one of the first campers in July, also believes the encampment’s departure will be peaceful. “No one’s going to bite,” he said.
Harvey left the park a month ago after finding accommodation on his own, but still visits the park every day in support. He does not think an injunction is an answer to the problem.
“Half these people don’t even know how to look for housing,” he said. “People will be back out on the streets.”
While the city and B.C. Housing have met with the encampment’s organizers regularly over the last nine weeks, major actions were not taken until this week. The city has reached a deal to open 157 units of temporary housing in the former Quality Inn at 1135 Howe St in November. In addition, 70 shelter spots have been created by transforming the former Kettle of Fish restaurant into a shelter and finding space at Union Gospel Mission.
Harvey believes the city is taking action due to the upcoming civic election and hopes a change in leadership will help with the housing situation. “Put someone in there who better understands how it is,” he said.
Adekat said discussions and decisions among leaders are ongoing so it remains to be seen if action will be taken by campers before the B.C. Supreme Court hearing Monday. An individual seen packing his belongings, who did not wish to be identified, told the Courier they were in the process of leaving.
Whatever happens, Campbell believes fighting for the cause will go on. He said, “They can kick us out but they can’t kick us down.”
The encampment has been in place since July 16. There are more than 250 individuals residing at the park.