Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

People sit together at a table at a homeless camp in Vancouver's Oppenheimer Park on May 6, 2020.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

T.J. Lovell had just 30 minutes to pack up his belongings from the tent city in Oppenheimer Park if he wanted access to a hotel room that he could share with his father.

Lovell, who camped in the tent city for two months, was one of about 300 homeless people who have been living at the park due to a lack of affordable housing before he was moved to a hotel in downtown Vancouver.

“The rooms we have are nicer than most places I’ve actually lived in and paid rent for. There’s no mould, there’s no water damage, there are no bugs,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Advocates and the homeless says the closure of tent cities in Victoria and Vancouver offer governments a chance to reshape housing policies across the country.

The provincial government set Saturday as a deadline for campers to be out of Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park as well as Topaz and Pandora parks in Victoria.

Many of the campers were moved to local hotels by the provincial government.

The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association is calling on the federal government to look at establishing a permanent acquisition program, turning temporary properties in to full-time housing, said its executive director Jeff Morrison.

“Could we retain them on a long-term basis so we can actually address homelessness?” he said in an interview. “The means are there, it’s just a question whether we have the political will to do that.”

Failing that, Morrison said a stimulus plan after the pandemic should include building affordable housing.

Other national advocates are warning provincial and the federal governments against returning to previous housing plans for homeless people.

Story continues below advertisement

Tim Richter, the CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, said there is concern that governments at various levels will abandon their affordable housing plans and return to the status quo.

“A lot of people have been talking about ‘when will life go back to normal?’ ” he said. “But from a homelessness perspective, normal wasn’t any good. Normal was people left on the street.”

B.C.’s approach has faced some criticism from local advocates, who argue the province is just targeting the most visible section of its homeless population, bypassing those who are waiting for permanent housing.

“It shouldn’t be about pitting people against anyone, but somebody might be getting housed before another person who is waiting longer or who is more in need. Where is that compassion to looking after those people who are the most vulnerable?” said Fiona York, a co-ordinator with the Carnegie Action Plan in Vancouver about those in Oppenheimer receiving hotel rooms.

She would like to see B.C. follow the lead of Toronto and purchase empty hotel sites to house more homeless people.

“Hopefully this will be an opportunity to make sure this never happens again and that we rethink the whole idea of housing and homelessness and take the opportunity to actually address it in a meaningful way,” York said.

Story continues below advertisement

B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson said the government is doing all it can to help a marginalized community.

“As we have in previous efforts to provide housing and resolve encampments ... we are using the available options to provide the best outcome for the whole community,” she said in a statement.

The provincial government is committed to building or finishing 23,000 homes across the province to ensure those moving into temporary accommodations have permanent homes, she added.

Lovell said he’s fine with the temporary nature of the hotels and hopes to be able to afford a basement suite when he and his father have to leave.

“Some people can’t take care of themselves, but I want to get back to a normal lifestyle.”

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies