Two Vancouver community centres to be used as homeless shelters in COVID-19 crisis

Oppenheimer Park currently houses the largest tent city ever, but this isn’t the first time the city has ordered the encampments cleared. Arlen Redekop / PNG

The City of Vancouver has unveiled plans to help homeless residents amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said on Thursday that two downtown community centres — Coal Harbour and Roundhouse (in Yaletown) — will be used to house the homeless on a referral basis.

Facilities will be staffed by BC Housing, and Vancouver Coastal Health will provide health guidance.

“We are aware that crowding into shelters could be a way that COVID-19 could be transmitted,” chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health Patricia Daly said.

“And we’d like to try and minimize transmission within the community so opening up further shelter space can help us do that.”

READ MORE: Advocate warns of ‘catastrophic’ human cost without urgent coronavirus action for DTES

The city is also working to secure the safety of people living in single-room occupancy hotels, known as SROs, to improve safety and hygiene.

Stewart said the federal government has allowed for a safe supply of drugs for residents of the Downtown Eastside.

“To properly battle the COVID-19 epidemic, we must tackle the poison drug epidemic, something that has already cost us more than 1,000 lives in our city alone,” he said.

The province is developing a rollout plan with a focus on the 20 to 30 per cent of drug users not connected to the health-care system.

The city has also secured hundreds of hotel rooms to for homeless people to live in, all in a bid to slow the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

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