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Dismantled tent city leaves homeless braving the winter

Tents under the Georgia viaduct. Photo: Sean Hitrec
Tents under the Georgia Viaduct. Photo: Sean Hitrec

Reported by Cheryl Whiting

With winter approaching and homeless shelters filled to capacity, some housing activists are questioning why the city of Vancouver is dismantling tent cities.

Last Thursday, Nov. 24, police moved in to dismantle a tent city at 58 W Hastings Street. Some residents moved to Thornton Park, which was then pulled down on Friday, leaving people with fewer options and filling up shelters.

Homeless people have fewer options for shelter

Maria Wallstam, an organizer with Alliance Against Displacement, said tent cities provide stability for the homeless who have a place to keep their belongings.

“There’s community, people look out for each other’s things and look out for each other,” Wallstam said. “If there are overdoses, people are constantly saving each other’s lives as well.”

Homeless people forcibly removed

With tent cities being dismantled, Wallstam said people are now hiding out under bridges and back alleys.

Johnny M, 34, stayed at the tent city on Hastings Street before it was dismantled last Thursday. He moved to Thornton Park, but police forcibly removed him and others there.

He said police nor the city offered any transition support to the tent city residents. “They just told us to go to a shelter,” he said. A few people are still stuck on the streets and stuff. You’d think we’d have a place by now. “

Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users were able to store some of M’s belongings but he said it’s not a permanent solution, he’s still seeking a place to call home.

Wallstam said people who lose their spots in tent cities and can’t find space in the shelter lose their sense of stability.

Here are the winter shelter locations in Vancouver.

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