UPDATED: Vancouver Park Board considers potential legal action as tents remain in Oppenheimer Park

Several tents remain after Wednesday’s deadline to vacate park

Although the deadline for campers to get out of Oppenheimer Park expired Wednesday night, there are still several tents remaining, and the Vancouver Park Board is considering its next steps.

The board is now “assessing the situation in the park and considering whether further legal action may be required,” a City of Vancouver statement reads.

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The order for campers to vacate the park was issued by Vancouver Park Board general manager Malcolm Bromley Monday morning with a deadline of 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21, saying the encampment contravenes a park board bylaw preventing anyone from setting up a tent, shelter or building in a city park.

The tent city has been in place in varying degrees and sizes since 2014 but has grown significantly in recent months — peaking at more than 140 people and 200 structures earlier this week.

As of Thursday afternoon, about 93 people had accepted the city’s offer of moving into housing at either a B.C. Housing or city-run facility.

"The City is pleased with the significant progress that has been made to date in supporting people to move indoors," a statement issued Thursday afternoon reads.

The city’s Carnegie Outreach team has been in the park to “support individuals to access housing and shelter, income and other support services.” All of the housing stock being made available is publicly owned and non-profit run buildings, including single-resident-occupancy rooms.

Whether those in the park end up in modular housing in other parts of Vancouver or in a room 100 feet from the park isn’t known — the city won’t say, largely due to privacy reasons.

What’s known is that all of the housing is within city limits.

“We know that there’s been a lot of speculation in the community around the quality of these rooms,” Sandra Singh, the city’s general manager of arts, culture and community services, told the Courier Monday. “Most of them have been recently renovated, they were all in the queue and so we were able to take stock and put them together in order to support this effort.”

When asked Wednesday if there is enough housing spaces for everyone camping in the park, a spokesperson for the city said: “We have identified housing options for those who are experiencing homelessness and sleeping in the park… We also have a number of shelter spaces available while longer term solutions are identified.”

Jeremy Hunka with Union Gospel Mission said UGM’s shelter was full Wednesday night, which is “unusual for us on cheque issue day, but we didn’t need to open extra additional spaces last night.”

Hunka said the shelter has a maximum capacity of 72, but does have limited capacity to add more spaces.

“So our response can’t be massive, but we’ll do what we can if more people come to us… Our main concern is the wellbeing of the homeless and we hope any efforts in Oppenheimer will include a path toward permanent solutions like housing and supports, rather than just short term fixes,” Hunka said.

This story has been updated since it was originally posted.

—With files from John Kurucz

@JessicaEKerr

jkerr@vancourier.com

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