Good to see activist’s put their bodies in the way of police taking our homeless away! I respect that. Sorry this happened and, if Liberals Provincial and Federal do not start the building of social housing now, we will see more of this all over, my prediction. After all, this is a slap in the face in the middle of this health crisis of overdose’s! k.h
by GLEN SCHAEFER
Published on: November 25, 2016 | Last Updated: November 25, 2016 3:13 PM PST
About 15 people were evicted Friday morning from Thornton Park after setting up tents and a makeshift kitchen the night before.
The campers headed to the park, which adjoins Vancouver’s Pacific Station train and bus terminal, after a court order came into effect ordering them off city-owned property at 58 W. Hastings St., where a tent camp had stood for more than four months.
Just before 10 a.m. Friday, police and parks staff served the Thornton campers with printed notices that they were in violation of a bylaw prohibiting the setting up of tents and other structures without permission.
Within half an hour, the clean-up began. Parks staff cleaned away tents, wooden pallets, several shopping carts and other articles while police handcuffed and arrested those who refused to leave. Among those arrested was housing activist Maria Wallstam, who had earlier sent out a press release announcing the tent city move.
Police said four women and two men were arrested for breach of the peace, and one man was arrested for obstruction and resisting arrest.
It was unclear where the remaining campers would go next.
“I’m going to go with the herd,” said camper A.C. Morris, adding he had spent the previous four months at the camp on Hastings.
“It’s not a bug-infested SRO,” Morris said of the camping life. “We all watch out for each other. We had a kitchen, we had water, coffee.”
Morris said a friend in the tent next to his was among those arrested when he refused to let park staff take down his tent.
“As long as we stick together, it’ll be harder and harder each day for them to get rid of us. Even if people close their eyes and turn their heads, that doesn’t mean we don’t exist.”
More than a dozen Vancouver police officers and a similar number of parks staff were involved in the clean-up.
Caitlin Shane, a law student with the Pivot Legal Society, said she accompanied the campers from Hastings to Thornton. She said the group decided among themselves to head to Thornton.
“There are not a lot places for people to go,” Shane said. “It was important that it be centrally located, so people would have access to outreach workers, to resources.”
She said the choice of Thornton Park, the first thing city visitors see when they exit the nearby bus and train station, wasn’t meant to be provocative.
“58 West Hastings was fenced off, less visible than Thornton,” Shane said. “It doesn’t necessarily matter how visible it is because people are going to be removed and they don’t have anywhere else to go.”
City spokesman Tobin Postma said 52 more shelter beds are opening up by Dec. 1, and campers seeking shelter can talk to outreach staff at the Carnegie Centre about getting beds.
“The one that’s opening up on Dec. 1 is a 24-hour shelter that accepts couples, it accepts pets, so it’s very low-barrier,” Postma said.
Pivot represented the campers when the city went to court to force them away from 58 W. Hastings.
A B.C. Supreme court judge granted the city an injunction Nov. 17 ordering the removal of the Hastings camp, giving the campers until Thursday night this week to move.
The court heard that over time, garbage had accumulated on the site as well as rats, human feces and discarded needles. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Loryl Russell said the serious health and fire risks outweighed any benefits the campers might have to continue living on the property.
The city plans to build 215 units of social housing on the Hastings site, with construction to start next June.