Jean Swanson — Vancouver city councillor calls for more help for homeless living in tents

A tent city is once again growing in Oppenheimer Park, and one Vancouver councillor says not enough is being done to help the residents.

Tents and other structures have been popping up in the Downtown Eastside park over the past few months, similar to one that sprouted up in the summer of 2014 in the same location.

Five years ago, roughly 200 people were living in the park until police and the city moved in – enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court order to tear down the encampment.

One man died in the previous tent city, but his death wasn’t considered suspicious.

That site started as a protest against shelter conditions and housing affordability, similar issues that have led to the current situation.

But this time, there are more tents than before, and Coun. Jean Swanson says more should be done to help the campers as the summer months approach.

“As far as I know there’s no progress made on housing,” she said. “And I’m really disturbed by it.”

Swanson says she put forward a motion for the city to petition the province to build 600 more units of affordable housing in the city, but the provincial budget only allowed for 200.

jean swanson“We desperately need to get more from the province,” she said. “The federal election is coming up, the feds haven’t contributed much to housing, it would be nice if they contributed to housing too.”

Residents in the homeless camp say they’d rather be living somewhere else.

A resident who identified himself as Terry told CTV News Vancouver that he’s been on the waiting list for housing for three years.

“I do know how to work,” he said. “The fact is that housing is so hard to get into.”

Terry said police and sometimes city workers force campers to move their tents every morning, tearing them down and throwing belongings out if they’re not gone by a certain time.

Terry’s friend, Jason, also a tent city resident, said the increase in numbers has a simple explanation.

“Where are these extras coming from? They’re coming from the middle class, the working class which are finding they just can’t cut it anymore,” he said.

Vancouver’s mayor says it’s an issue popping up across the region.

“This is a problem all around the region, a challenge for all municipalities is homelessness and I mean we know that it’s been growing over the last decade and we’re doing everything we can,” said Kennedy Stewart.

But Terry says all residents want is a chance to live in proper housing.

“I’d like the public to know that we are people, we have hearts. We have feelings, we cry, we feel. And we’re not all bad people, give us a chance, let us rent your room.”


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