First off, some news that isn’t about the Strathcona Park encampment.
Parents and Families Facebook Page: We’ve had some requests to set up a Facebook page for parents and child caregivers so they can ask questions, share resources and join a community. Turns out, one already exists. Thanks Danielle. Here’s the link. If you're a parent, please check it out.
Cordova Rail Crossing Closure: Residents of the Strathcona Village building complex on 1000-block E. Hastings Street have been attempting to get the attention of city and CN officials to address the noise-related health effects of the very loud rail crossing signals at Cordova St. and Raymur Street. Due to the interaction between the new “smart” signals and idling CN trains at this location, the signal goes off many times per hour at different times of the day and night, often when there was no train. At the request of the Strata Council of Strathcona Village, Trefor Smith, our environmental lead, was able to arrange a meeting with CoV engineering and CN and advocate for a win-win solution. By law, the signals must be in place at both intersections as long as the roads are open to traffic. As the roads are scheduled to be closed as part of the Port Expansion and CN Rail Twinning by early- to mid-2022, the SRA requested the closure sequence to be accelerated to address the noise problem. The closure would maintain a one-way road along Raymur Street to allow truck and car traffic to exit the lane behind Strathcona Village which is used by local businesses. The City is proposing to consult with local businesses regarding “pilot” road closure at Cordova and Raymur crossings along BI Line. It could start as early as this fall.
Community-led Air Quality (AQ) Monitoring: Trefor and Dan met with Chester Ronan, head of Environmental Strategic Initiatives at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to discuss the Port’s offer to contribute a significant investment into a community-led Air Quality (AQ) monitoring project that would have the SRA partner with the Port’s environmental division, along with Metro Vancouver’s AQ department, UBC AQ experts and others. If it proceeds, the AQ project would occur in the next two years and would have SRA as part of a steering committee that would also include UBC experts and Metro Vancouver. It would take direction from Strathcona community input that will be collected as part of the SRA’s initiative this fall/winter to engage with individuals and organizations in Strathcona to identify the priority issues and locations for AQ monitoring within our neighbourhood. Once we have a few more details, we’re going to set up a meeting with the AQ Working group in late August to discuss next steps.
Prior St: The Art Cars parked along the park seem to have had the intended effect of encouraging parking and reducing traffic to a single lane. The city will follow up with pilot changes after BC Hydro completes their work by Sept 7.
Camp Strathcona update: Katie and Dan (mostly Katie) continue to speak directly with many of our elected officials at both the city and provincial levels, as well as residents. Needless to say, there are several competing narratives and few easy answers. As an organization, the SRA’s position is:
The camp is not a solution, it is a symptom of a system that has failed to adequately address the interconnected problems of homelessness, addiction and mental health.
This is not a fight between the homeless and the homed. This is a battle between activists and the government. We don’t want Strathcona to become collateral damage. We don’t want to lose the sense of safety and security in our community. We don’t want another Oppenheimer. We want the camp to move out of a residential park as soon as possible.
The Province needs to take visible charge of this situation now. Put someone in charge, another Bonnie Henry, who can coordinate efforts between Ministries, the Park Board, the CoV, the Feds, local support agencies, activists and actual homeless to put short and long-term solutions on the table now. Hundreds of people are being paid millions of dollars to take on this problem. We need them to do their job, even if it’s hard. BC is the envy of the world in how it handled the equally complex problem of CoVid. Let’s tackle this one in the same positive energy.
The activists controlling and supporting the encampment need to genuinely work with the people who can solve it. Invite officials, don’t ban them. The situation is already out of control and getting worse. Protest and demands only get you so far. Real solutions take work and compromise.
So, what can you do?
If you are worried about theft: As any long-time resident of Strathcona knows, things get stolen in this neighbourhood. Don’t make it easy. If you can, keep your stuff inside or locked up. Bikes are especially tough to trace. Yes, there are stolen bikes in the camp. We witnessed police going in and rousting people during one of our meetings. But lacking hard proof, VPD cannot make an arrest or even recover property (read this email from VPD). So make sure your bike is uniquely identifiable. Register it with Project 529. Take pictures of it. Scratch your initials into it. Ditto anything else that is kept outside. If something is stolen, file a police report either via 9-1-1, using their non-emergency line (604-717-3321), or via their online portal.VPD is data-driven. Resources follow stats.
If you have other concerns or complaints: Again, file a police report. You can also contact Dan Turvill, the executive director of the Strathcona Community Safety Centre via e-mail or call 604-717-0622. He and the SRA will be meeting weekly with the leaders at the camp (Chrissy, Veronica and Fiona) to review complaints and try to solve problems at a community level. If you can send him pictures, he will follow-up with camp leadership. A bike and a dog have already been recovered this way.
If you want to help people in the camp. Rather than rely on rumour to learn who is in the camp and what they’re up to, go down and see for yourself. To volunteer, or make contributions, or just set up a conversation, e-mail Fiona York, who is coordinating support through Carnegie Community Action Project or Ksenia Stepkina, who is organizing support through the United Way.
If you want to light a fire under your elected officials: Write, call, e-mail. Repeatedly. Below is a boilerplate version of the SRA’s position. You can cut-and-paste and express your support - or even better, express your personal opinion. Below is a long list of e-mails.
From: (your name and address)
The six-week-old encampment in Strathcona Park now numbers over 300 tents, has spouted sub-encampments, and expands daily. This is not a solution. It is a high-profile example of failure.
Strathcona Park is not the place for activists and elected officials to wage the ongoing battle against homelessness, addiction and mental health. We don’t want our community to become collateral damage. We don’t want to witness the erosion of safety and security. We don’t want another Oppenheimer. We’ve lost one park in this war, we don’t want to lose another.
We want the camp removed from a residential park as soon as possible.
Hundreds of people are being paid millions of dollars to take on this problem. Do your job.
Provincial Minister of Housing Selina Robinson needs to take public charge of this situation or appoint another Bonnie Henry who can. She needs to work with fellow NDP ministers Shane Simpson, Judy Darcy, and Mike Farnsworth to offer immediate short-term and long-term solutions.
The City of Vancouver and the Park Board need to offer collaboration and support.
The Federal Government, particularly Minister Ahmed Hussen, needs to get in the game by following through on the National Housing Strategy promise to cut chronic homelessness by 50%.
The activists who support the camp and act as its public voice need to begin genuinely working with the people who can provide solutions. Invite officials, don’t ban them.
The way to solve a complex problem is to take the first step. Set up a Navigation Centers to triage the real needs of people in the camp, rent or purchase another hotel or SRO, put modular housing or small, managed encampments on non-residential provincial or federal land like Riverview, the new hospital site, Little Mountian or a CRAB Park parking lot. If these ideas aren’t workable, get creative and come up with ideas that are workable.
The way BC handled CoVid has made us the envy of the world. Let’s face this challenge in the same can-do spirit.
We’re watching. Next election, we’ll remember.
Send it to all of these e-mails. Just cut and paste the list.
Premier@gov.bc.ca, MAH.Minister@gov.bc.ca, PSSG.Minister@gov.bc.ca, MH.Minister@gov.bc.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Ahmed.Hussen@parl.gc.ca, Jean-Yves.Duclos@parl.gc.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org,CLRswanson@vancouver.ca, CLRcarr@vancouver.ca, CLRdegenova@vancouver.ca, CLRhardwick@vancouver.ca, CLRwiebe@vancouver.ca, CLRboyle@vancouver.ca, CLRdominato@vancouver.ca, CLRBligh@vancouver.ca, CLRkirbyemail@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, ReachingHome@vancity.com, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Pete.email@example.com