News / Vancouver

Vancouver tent city grows as activists demand action on homelessness and housing

A tent city established on July 9 has grown to more than 40 tents as DTES residents demand action on affordable housing.

The tent city at 58 West Hastings St. on Tuesday, July 12, 2016.

Jen St. Denis/Metro

The tent city at 58 West Hastings St. on Tuesday, July 12, 2016.

Downtown Eastside residents and activists are vowing to continue their occupation of a city-owned lot on Hastings Street after being turned away from a July 12 Vancouver city council meeting.

The group of around 30 people was attempting to put homelessness on the agenda and wanted Mayor Gregor Robertson to visit a tent city that was established on July 9 at 58 West Hastings St. As a compromise, the protesters accepted a meeting with Robertson at City Hall.

“There’s a real consensus in our community that that city-owned lot needs to be developed with 100 per cent social housing at welfare rates for people in the community,” said Ayanis Ormond, a member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).

“There are condos going up every single day and nobody can afford to live in those.”

The tent city started with about 20 tents on July 9, but has now grown to 44 tents and roughly 60 people, Ormond said. A separate group of people is currently occupying an empty apartment building in Burnaby to protest displacement and a lack of affordable housing options in the region.

Barbara Nepinak said she is living in the DTES tent city because of deplorable conditions in the privately owned single room occupancy hotel she lives in.

“There’s bedbugs, there’s cockroaches, rats running through,” Nepinak said. “When I moved in they gave us a bed with bedbugs and I had to deliberately throw that bed out.”

The same vacant lot was the site of a months-long tent city occupation leading up to the 2010 Olympics. The current tent city was established on Saturday after a march through the Downtown Eastside to call attention to housing issues in Vancouver, Ormond said. The City of Vancouver’s annual homelessness count showed the number of homeless people at a 10-year high in 2016.

Earlier this month a provincial court judge ordered a tent city in Victoria to shut down because of safety concerns.

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