Vancouver city staff will examine establishing “temporary tiny house villages” and low-income RV parks as part of council’s temporary disaster relief shelter framework.
On Monday, council added those two options to an existing three options in motion presented by Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
The existing options were to lease or buy housing units (including hotels and single-room occupancy hotels), establish a temporary emergency relief camp on vacant public or private land and to temporarily convert city-owned buildings into emergency housing.
It was councillor and longtime housing advocate Jean Swanson who asked to add to the options establishing temporary tiny house villages on vacant public or private land and providing a serviced space or spaces for low-income RV residents.
Swanson’s amendment to the motion was supported by all councillors except Melissa De Genova. City staff have until Oct. 2 to report back to council on all the options.
Stewart told council that the city’s homelessness crisis had worsened due to COVID-19, and was most obvious in Strathcona Park south of the Strathcona neighbourhood where at least 300 tents have been put up.
“Shelter capacity has gone down, there is a no-guest policy (in single-room occupancy hotels) and this has caused ripple effects,” he said.
Stewart added that residents were noticing increases in homelessness in their neighbourhoods and that was in turn adding to the stress of COVID-19.
Councillor Pete Fry, who has lived in Strathcona for the past 30 years, said he had spoken to an eight-year-old who had recurring nightmares that their family would be killed by campers.
Fry said residents were being bullied for speaking out against the encampment.
Swanson said that people who were homeless needed to have options for change.
“This is an emergency motion, hopefully we will have some options for all people,” she said.
Seattle has eight city-funded “tiny house villages” that have opened in the past three years in response to that city’s homelessness crisis.
One of those villages — Second Chance — evolved from un-permitted squat, to sanctioned tent city, to city-funded tiny house village.
Vancouver does not allow overnight camping in RVs on city streets, but is also not issuing any tickets to RV dwellers for overnight parking during COVID-19.