VANCOUVER, BC (Unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Territories): DTES community members will debunk the “success story” of Oppenheimer Park tent city’s eviction, highlighting the thousands who are still homeless and the community’s ongoing vulnerability to COVID-19.
What: News conference
When: Wednesday May 20th, 1:00pm
Where: Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver
Under the Emergency Program Act, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth ordered that all residents of Oppenheimer Tent City evacuate the park by noon on May 9th. This order was executed under the guise of protecting the “health and safety” of residents, visitors, health workers, and support workers from COVID-19. In reality, the COVID-19 pandemic was used by the province to override the Park Board’s refusal to issue an injunction to dismantle the park.
Moreover, the evacuation order has been spun by the media and politicians as a solution to the housing crisis. Estimates vary, but between 160-200 former Oppenheimer residents were moved into temporary hotels. While this move was positive for some, it does not solve the problem of homelessness for the 10,000 people still living on the streets, in SROs, in modular housing, and in shelters in the DTES. Karen Lane, a resident of the DTES for over 40 years, will explain how the displacement of Oppenheimer has put more people on the street. Many who were staying at the park with family and friends have lost shelter, and some Oppenheimer residents did not get housing. “They have nowhere to go. They’re feeling isolated and alone. It’s divide and conquer.”
Speakers will include former Oppenheimer residents who were offered temporary housing; shelter residents who were bumped off the housing list during the evacuation; residents of supportive housing buildings who continue to face living conditions and negligent performance by staff that increases risk of overdose and contracting COVID-19; and DTES residents who witness the escalation of racist and anti-poor violence by police and city workers against people living on the street. Their experiences illustrate a reality starkly different from the one painted by the eviction order, which claims the province would provide “adequate alternative living arrangements” and other “health and social support for persons residing in the Oppenheimer Park Encampment.” As an Indigenous elder in the DTES put it, the eviction order merely shows that “the city doesn’t care about housing people, they just want to get rid of the eyesore.”