News / Vancouver

Updated: East Vancouver tent city cut off from only water source

Residents ask for help from city and province

Sugar Mountain tent city resident Dennis Deguerre on Aug. 17, 2017.

Jennifer Gauthier / For Metro

Sugar Mountain tent city resident Dennis Deguerre on Aug. 17, 2017.

The City of Vancouver will provide water, garbage disposal and toilets to the 48 residents of an East Vancouver tent city after the provincial Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction intervened.

Residents of an East Vancouver homeless camp had asked for help from both the city and the province after their only reliable source of water was cut off yesterday.

“We opened this tent city after being displaced from 950 Main St. on June 27, and since then there has been absolutely no gestures from the city or the provincial government to offer support for this tent city,” said JJ Reich, a member of the activist group Alliance Against Displacement, which has been supporting the camp.

Around 48 people are living in tents in the city-owned vacant lot at 1131 Franklin Ave. The tent city originally set up at 950 Main St., a city-owned lot across from the Pacific Central train station, on April 28. After several attempts, a non-profit housing operator who planned to build social housing on the site was successful in evicting the group.

The new site, which the residents call Sugar Mountain, is located near the Powell St. overpass in an industrial part of East Vancouver. While residents were getting water from a bakery down the street — Boulangerie la Parisienne — the business is no longer allowing access. Alliance Against Displacement has been paying to service two portapotties, but that money will soon run out, Reich said.

A sign warning people not to take water at a bakery on Franklin St.

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

A sign warning people not to take water at a bakery on Franklin St.

BC Housing and the city had a meeting today, "and the city and the city has agreed to provide water, toilets and garbage disposal for the campers while we work on potential long-term solutions," Marianne Anderson, a staffer at the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, told Metro. 

Earlier this week, Shane Simpson, the Minister of Social Development, and Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, visited the tent city.

Metro was unable to contact Boulangerie la Parisienne. Metro spoke to the owners of three other businesses near the tent city, two of whom said there had been no effect on their business from the camp locating nearby.

Samson Lang, the owner of Rising Sun Motorcycles right across from 1131 Franklin, said the impact on his business has been minor — but there have been several overdoses his staff has had to help with and they have witnessed some violent altercations within the camp.

Lang has sympathy for the homeless people, but he’s frustrated the city has been so hands off.

“The fact is, the city really doesn’t care,” Lang said. Staff at the city have told Lang and his staff that their “hands are tied” because the lot isn’t for sale. The piece of property once had businesses on it, but was expropriated by the city to build the Powell St. overpass. Lang would like to see it developed.

Reich suspects the city won’t try to evict the camp until the winter emergency shelters are open, as happened in the past with a tent city that was located at 58 W. Hastings for five months in 2016. That occupation resulted in a promise from the city to build social housing on the site.

But residents don’t want to move into shelters, SROs run by private landlords or even social housing with restrictive rules, Reich said. She called for tenant-run housing.

Metro has requested interviews from the city and the province, but has yet to receive a response.

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