Campers at Oppenheimer Park were relaxed and enjoying the sunny weather Friday, Aug. 22. Small groups of people talked amongst themselves, while others played cards or kicked a ball around.
One person told the Courier they were planning to pitch a tent this weekend, while another said they were searching for a mattress to make their stay more comfortable. There were no signs of anyone leaving the encampment, which has grown significantly since the Homes for the Homeless protest or “park occupation movement,” started in July.
The city served campers orders to remove all permanent structures in July, but the orders haven’t been enforced.
Each day city staff get eight to 12 complaints from residents and would-be park users about the tents, according to the City of Vancouver's communications department, and staff continue to meet with organizers in the hopes they will leave voluntarily.
The city’s communication department also told the Courier in an Aug. 22 email that the safety of campers and users of the park is a top priority.
“The City is working with the Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Fire & Rescue to monitor the park and the campers on a daily basis for any health and safety issues as well as addressing any concerns regarding noise levels, potential fire hazards and alcohol and drug consumption that have been raised by campers and/or local residents and businesses,” the Aug. 22 email stated.
“City staff have met with representatives of the encampment to hear their concerns and discuss the return of the park to regular public use. Both sides share the same immediate concerns about safety and adequate shelter for homeless individuals involved in the protest and the City is committed to working to resolve their housing issues. However, both sides agree that any sustainable solution requires the involvement of the provincial government. The City continues to meet with the representatives on a regular basis to work towards finding a solution.”
The statement added that the city is working with B.C. Housing to see that every homeless person at the park has “immediate housing options.”
“The City is also working with BC Housing, Vancouver Coastal Health and other partners to find long-term stable housing or ongoing shelter options for those who need it,” the statement continued.
“The City supports the right to gather and carry out peaceful protest however, the Parks are there for the enjoyment of everyone and the City is requesting that the structures be removed from Oppenheimer Park so that the park can return to its regular use by the entire community.”
Aside from tents, there is a longhouse and sacred fire on site, which campers hope will deter eviction attempts. Campers have claimed the park is unceded Coast Salish land.
The city has not set a date for structures to be removed.