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Tents line the sidewalk on East Hastings Street, Vancouver, on Aug. 9, 2022.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

British Columbia’s NDP government – whose Premier David Eby has said the province will take over Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside – has come up with a preliminary plan for tackling mounting problems with homelessness, poverty, mental health and addiction.

It focuses on the dangers of camps of homeless people in Vancouver, saying they are “unsafe and untenable,” and says there will be a housing-first approach backed up by multidisciplinary teams providing health and social services to an increasingly beleaguered population on the street.

That will include a community-integration team that will work at the Hastings Street camp to do “on-the-spot intake assessments, housing and health referrals, low-barrier employment options, help getting ID and fire-safety education.

The “provincial partnership plan working document” also talks a lot about collaborating with existing groups in the Downtown Eastside, especially Indigenous ones.

It makes no reference to a new agency or person who might take charge of the co-ordinated effort, something Mr. Eby said last November might be needed.

The plan, which the province released Sunday with so little fanfare that many people involved in Downtown Eastside issues didn’t even know about it, is getting cautious praise from some and scathing criticism from others.

But both groups note that the 13-page plan has no dollar amount attached to any of the initiatives outlined and no timeline.

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“What I see is the province acknowledging that the buck stops with them. This is the first time I’ve picked up this tone,” said Vancouver Councillor Rebecca Bligh, who is with the majority ABC Vancouver party. “But without dollars and timelines, the shine will come off quickly.”

B.C. Liberal MLA Elenore Sturko, the party’s critic for mental health and addiction, said it seemed to be a largely empty document filled with ideological statements and not much else.

“It’s got very sweeping statements but no real framework for how to do it. This plan has no money.”

Harm-reduction advocates in the Downtown Eastside also panned the plan, saying it seemed vague, with nothing for some of the immediate issues such as the toxic-drug crisis that is killing hundreds.

“I like the long-term outlook but what about now? And it doesn’t map out how we’re going to do it,” said Guy Felicella.

Vancouver, like several other cities in B.C., has been trying to grapple with the problems of poverty, extreme housing shortages for poor people, camps of homeless people, mental illness, toxic drugs and more.

But cities don’t control social-housing dollars or mental-health and addiction services, which are seen as the key factors in making any kind of change to what has become an increasingly bleak landscape of homeless people living on the streets, parks or other public land.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim said he welcomed the province’s willingness to work together with others.

“The challenges we see today cannot be addressed by one level of government alone. It’s critically important that we are working together to deliver a co-ordinated, collaborative response in the Downtown Eastside,” he said.

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The plan came attached as a link to a housing announcement Sunday, where Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the province will be delivering 330 more homes for homeless people in the Downtown Eastside by June. That announcement was made after several recent incidents of fires breaking out at tents on Hastings Street.

The plan spells out that “the provincial approach to encampments is to prioritize the dignity, health and safety of people sheltering, and to connect them to the integrated supports and housing they need to move forward,” stressing that camps might be needed temporarily but are not a long-term solution.

The Hastings Street camp is seen as “one of the most concerning due to its location and multiple safety issues for those sheltering and the surrounding community.”