Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, particularly Strathcona Park, which is notorious for a growing homelessness encampment is now becoming known for “out-of-control” crime.
Calls reporting weapons and break-and-enters have risen by more than 50 per cent in the neighbourhood, according to Vancouver Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Chow.
This comes as no surprise to Strathcona resident Dr. Sophie Low-Beer, whose home is a block from where a semi-automatic assault-style rifle was found last week.
“That’s terrifying, it's really scary,” Low-Beer told Vancouver Is Awesome.
She’s also located – with her two young children – less than two blocks from Strathcona Park.
On walks, she’s come across an “exponential” amount of discarded needles, condoms, and human feces – the latest of which was found at her son’s neighbourhood school Wednesday.
A thread about garbage in #strathcona, near the tent city in #vanpoli.— Karin Litzcke (@KarinLitzcke) September 16, 2020
This is what it looks like at one part of Strathcona Park, the site of the tent city. Some very much appreciated garbage dept employees will be cleaning this up, not till the remains of a fire have off-gassed. pic.twitter.com/TeWDNPmNgz
The emergency room doctor, both a witness to and victim of crime in the area, believes the crime is a two-fold issue:
“The City of Vancouver – by not doing anything – is condoning hundreds of people camping in a park, dying from overdoses, and being exposed to other illnesses. Residents in Strathcona want to include unhoused people but we cannot absorb the entire homeless population."
“Why do COVID-19 health and safety measures apply to everybody but the population in the park?” She questioned. “The government has a responsibility to provide safe housing for these people."
"It's an issue of equity," she said, recalling the Hippocratic oath she made as a doctor.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart called an emergency meeting last Friday to address the growing tent city, which saw some Strathcona residents refuse to pay taxes until safety is restored, and 23 people speak up about the state of street disorder.
As a result of the meeting, the city council directed staff Monday to consider the feasibility of a temporary sanctioned homeless camp, leasing or purchasing hotels, or converting city-owned buildings into emergency housing or shelter space.
Findings from staff are expected to come back before Oct. 2.
Strathcona Park tent city supporters, neighbourhood residents and a Downtown Eastside community activist are pleading with governments to create a sanctioned camp for unhoused people.#Vancouver #Parks #Homelessness #StrathconaParkhttps://t.co/HoAVV2yAHU pic.twitter.com/4z6OPTCJOx— Park People / Amis des parcs (@Park_People) August 12, 2020