For safety reasons, Vancouver Fire Rescue has ordered immediate removal of all tents and structures on East Hastings Street sidewalks in the Downtown Eastside.
In a bulletin issued this afternoon by the City of Vancouver, the removal of the homeless camp was issued by Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry.
The encampment of closely spaced tents and structures has been forming rapidly in recent weeks, starting on July 1. The encampment occupies the sidewalks along East Hastings Street in the general area between Main Street and Carrall Street.
“If a fire breaks out in the area as it stands, it would be catastrophic, endangering lives and endangering hundreds of units of much-needed housing,” the bulletin reads.
“The situation on East Hastings Street near Main Street in the DTES has become significantly less safe, in part due to increased structures and reduced accessibility.”
The camp exploded in size after Vancouver police officers stopped guiding city maintenance crews on their day-to-day job of clearing debris and trash from the streets on July 1. This turnaround of the police accompanying the city crews followed mounting calls from activists, who accused the crews of dismantling and disposing of empty tents and personal belongings left on the streets.
“Plans were underway to remove structures to increase street safety, increase passage for sidewalks and roads, increase access to buildings and reduce fire hazards,” the bulletin continues.
“While today’s order will speed up this process, the situation is complex and the city will continue to take a thoughtful approach that takes into account the needs of those taking shelter outside as we do this work.”
The municipal government adds that it will work with the community, non-profits and government organizations to expedite the removal of the structures and provide additional support to those sheltering outside, including day storage of belongings, more public toilets, more misting and hand washing statins, and more water fountains.
In a separate statement, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he “fully supports Chief’s Fry’s decision to make the area safe, but also realizes the stress and difficulties this order will create for those living in the affected area.” live.”
“My top priority is the safety and security of all Vancouver residents, especially vulnerable neighbors. Over the past four years we have secured funding to build the housing and services we need to reduce homelessness and support people suffering from mental health and substance abuse… Despite these investments and efforts, it is clear that the demand for high-quality, supportive housing still exceeds supply – especially during hot summer days when many residents cannot live safely in SROs with poor ventilation.”
While the camp’s tents and structures pose an immediate fire hazard, there are also growing complaints from local residents and businesses about the escalating public disorder, crime and health problems.
There is also an encampment in Crab Park on the waterfront, just north of Gastown and the railroad yard. However, the Vancouver Park Board’s order to vacate the Crab Park encampment was not approved by a BC judge in January 2022.