Strathcona Park Encampment Updates

Updated: April 13, 2021

Direction and overall plans

  • It is the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, and BC Housing’s shared goal to make enough housing available to offer everyone sleeping overnight in Strathcona Park indoor accommodation by the end of April 2021.
  • On April 9, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation issued a General Manager’s Order stating that all existing tents, temporary shelters, and structures must be removed from Strathcona Park by April 30, 2021.
  • The City of Vancouver and BC Housing are working together to prepare spaces and incrementally move people into housing that matches their needs, as it becomes available over the following weeks.

Indoor space creation

  • To support this effort, the Province, through BC Housing has purchased six properties that will provide about 340 permanent supportive homes and indoor spaces for people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver.
    • On April 1, BC Housing announced the purchase of three properties in Vancouver that have a combined total of 249 rooms.
    • On March 31, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) announced the purchase of three sites in Vancouver through the Rapid Housing Initiative totaling 91 rooms.
  • These properties, along with new temporary shelters, rent supplements, and renovating existing housing, will allow us to meet our goal of offering an indoor space to everyone currently sleeping overnight at Strathcona Park by the end of April.

Strathcona Park Neighbours and Residents

Contact information

Neighbours and residents questions: communityrelations@bchousing.org

Reporters and media questions: media@bchousing.org

Strathcona Park Encampment Updates - Frequently Asked Questions

When will the temporary warming tent, washroom, and showers be operational?

  • The temporary warming tent, washroom and showers opened to campers on January 18.

Who is the site operator for these facilities?

  • The temporary warming tent, washroom and showers will be operated by Atira Women’s Resource Society. Atira has a long history of advocacy and outreach within the DTES, including the operation of housing developments for women and children throughout Metro Vancouver, providing educational support and running homelessness prevention and housing outreach programming in both Vancouver and Surrey.

Who is providing funding for the warming tent, washroom and showers?

  • Funding for these facilities is being provided by BC Housing.

Are these services open to the public?

  • The warming tent, washroom, and showers are for people currently camping at Strathcona Park. We would discourage neighbours and visitors from using these facilities to protect vulnerable campers from the spread of COVID-19 from outside of the park.

Will these services be 24/7?

  • The warming tent, washrooms, and showers will operate 24/7.

How many people can access these services at a time?

  • In order to support physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, a maximum of 18 people will be allowed in the warming tent at a time. Guests can spend a maximum of 1 hour in the tent per visit, based on demand. The washrooms and showers are for individual use and will have a time limit of 30 minutes per visit, also based on demand.

Will there be places for harm reduction and safe substance use on site?

  • Atira and community partners provide outreach to campers that includes harm reduction. Additionally, campers are encouraged to never use substances alone while at Strathcona Park.

What is being done to address garbage, needles, and other refuse at Strathcona Park and in the surrounding community?

  • As well as creating new indoor spaces for people experiencing homelessness in the park and elsewhere, all partners are committed to keeping the community clean and safe.
  • BC Housing has been funding outreach and peer-based clean-up in the park since the Fall while our partners at Parks have been ensuring that garbage receptacles are available for campers to dispose of unwanted belongings.
  • In early January, the Park Operations team installed approximately 500 feet of four-foot-high fencing in Strathcona Park, reducing the physical footprint of the encampment and relocating tents and structures to more appropriate, dryer ground on the gravel field. These fences will be moved as people leave the camp for spaces indoors, which will also afford greater use of the park by the Strathcona community.
  • A joint initiative between Parks staff and a peer-led group of campers continues to perform daily debris removal inside the park.

How are risks of COVID-19 spread being addressed?

  • Vancouver Coastal Health has begun offering COVID-19 vaccine clinics to people sleeping overnight at Strathcona Park and frontline support workers who provide services and amenities to campers.
  • BC Housing, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Atira are working to ensure everyone’s safety. Atira has developed a health and safety plan that has been reviewed and approved by Vancouver Coastal Health that includes the use of PPE, regular cleaning of frequent touch surfaces, social distancing measures, and regular health checks.
  • Guests at the warming tent will be asked to sign-in for each visit to assist with contact tracing in the event of a possible exposure. Guests will sanitize their hands when entering the tent and will be required to always wear a mask. Guests are also asked to leave belongings outside the tent.
  • Washrooms will be locked and monitored to ensure proper use and safe access.

When will campers leave Strathcona Park?

  • BC Housing and our community partners will not forcibly remove anyone from Strathcona Park at this time. We are working closely with all parties involved to find solutions for people who want to transition to housing.
  • BC Housing and the City of Vancouver will be making accommodation options available over the coming months with the joint goal of opening enough spaces for people at the encampment by the end of April.
  • We are also moving forward to secure shelter operators who have significant experience working with vulnerable populations in Vancouver.

What is the timeline for announcing new housing options?

  • BC Housing and the City of Vancouver have committed to move people who are sleeping in Strathcona Park into indoor accommodation by the end of April 2021.
  • To support this goal, BC Housing, the City of Vancouver, and our non-profit housing partners are working to secure hundreds of spaces across the city to house people camping at Strathcona Park or experiencing homelessness in the nearby community.

How many people have you housed from Strathcona Park?

  • Our goal is to offer Strathcona Park campers a safe place to stay indoors. BC Housing works closely with our housing provider partners in Vancouver to connect campers to spaces when they become available.
  • Since October 2020, we have helped house more than 45 active or former Strathcona Park campers. As spaces become available, our outreach teams are assessing campers and moving them indoors. This work will ramp up once additional spaces become available in the coming weeks.

The last update said most people will be out of the park by the end of April, is that still the case?

  • We’ve received several questions regarding the timing we mentioned in our last update. To clarify, Minister Eby has committed to opening enough spaces to accommodate people living in the park by the end of April 2021.
  • The number of people sleeping overnight in the encampment fluctuates based on a range of circumstances. BC Housing has requested funding to support the creation of 350 spaces to support moving people indoors, which includes spaces to provide sufficient options for people in the park and for the broader neighbourhood to ensure equitable access to housing and to prevent the encampment from growing.

What spaces have been identified?

  • BC Housing and the City of Vancouver are working on developing housing solutions. This includes finding new indoor spaces, assisting others in obtaining permanent housing, and renovating existing spaces.
  • Upon review, BC Housing has determined that two city-owned properties, Jericho Hostel and 2400 Kingsway, are not suitable housing for people who are moving from Strathcona Park.

What spaces have been identified?

  • We are beginning renovation work on a 60-bed shelter, which we hope to open in March and have other properties that can be opened in the coming weeks.
  • Jericho Hostel and 2400 Kingsway are two of the properties that the City has requested provincial operating funding for but these locations will not necessarily be used for housing people who are moving from Strathcona.

What’s happening with the Navigation Centre?

  • The RFP process for the Navigation Centre is now completed. BC Housing will have an update soon regarding the operator and the location of the site.
  • The Navigation Centre, which will be located in or near the DTES, will provide additional levels of support not offered in many traditional shelters. The 60-bed centre will be referral only and provide integrated clinical health supports, as well as culturally appropriate services for Indigenous peoples.

Has a survey been conducted of people living in the park?

  • Partners working in the park are speaking with people sleeping there to identify their needs. The results of these conversations will inform our housing work but will not be shared publicly to protect the privacy of people experiencing homelessness.

Are VPD officers still attending incidents in the park?

  • VPD officers attend and respond to calls for services within the park and surrounding area as required, whether the reporter of the incident is someone staying in the encampment or a neighbour to the Park.  Should you be concerned for your safety or the safety of others, call 911. It is important that all incidents are reported.

Can residents be involved with shaping the future of the park?

  • Staff from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation will be seeking input and engagement from the community to enhance the park’s use and to create more opportunities for programming and activations in the space. While there is no firm timeline on this work at this time, there will be an opportunity for residents and community members to share their feedback and ideas about the future of the park.

Why were RVs and other vehicles moved from stalls beside Strathcona Park?

  • Vehicles parked directly adjacent to Strathcona Park were moved so that construction crews could establish a temporary warming tent and sanitary facilities, including showers and washrooms. These temporary facilities are essential to help ensure the health and safety of campers until they are able to move into indoor accommodations.

Where did the vehicles go?

  • Vehicle residents were asked to move to any available, legal parking stall on Raymur Avenue and neighbouring streets. About 10 vehicles moved voluntarily, and some required technical assistance to relocate.