Parked on the side of the road near Vancouver’s Home Depot on the False Creek flats, a new community has sprung up.
RVs are parked nose to tail along several streets.
Most people living here say this is the only way they can afford to live in the city.
Kevin Bone has been here for two years. His small RV sits under the Terminal Avenue viaduct. His situation is better than many of the alternatives he has been faced with recently.
“I don’t mind it honestly,” Bone said. “I could do this full time. I have no obligations to a landlord. My RV is perfect for me and my dog.”
But Bone and most of his neighbours along Glen Drive are living in fear they will be ticketed or towed.
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The city is mindful there is a housing crisis, and typically only issues fines or notices if there are nuisance complaints.
But bylaw officers are routinely touring hotspots like this looking for obvious safety violations, and there are lots to find. Garbage can be seen piled up around and on top of several campers.
Some business owners around the False Creek Flats believe the city needs to look at setting aside land to better accommodate the number of people living on city streets.
“They need washrooms, they need showers, they need garbage cans. But ignoring the situation like it is isn’t working. The city has to deal with it,” said local business owner John Knapton.
There are no solid stats about the number of people living in vans, or sleeping in cars in Vancouver. They are often lumped in with the city’s annual homeless count.
According to the City of Vancouver, about 2,500 people are living on the street.
Newly elected mayor Kennedy Stewart is convinced one of the keys to solving this issue will be scaling up the construction of temporary modular homes.
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“I’ve talked to people living in those units and they are starting to pull their lives back together,” said Stewart.
“Getting into the workforce, for example, or having their health improve. And that is my job on the ground. To get the lots available and the planning processes passed so the Province can get more of that housing built.”
Many people in living RVs don’t consider themselves homeless. They have a place to live and just want to be left alone.
Other cities along the west coast have adopted what are being called safe parking programs.
Communities in some cases partner with churches to give people access to a secure parking spot and to facilities including washrooms and kitchens.
It is something some of Vancouver’s new councillors want to look at.
According to Vancouver Green Party councillor Pete Fry, the council has already asked city staff to report on the scope of the issue so the beginnings of a policy can be worked out.
It is another example of how Vancouver needs to address its growing unaffordability. At this point, there appear to be no easy answers to what has become a growing problem.
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