'It's a tough place to live': Vancouver mayor responds to Oppenheimer Park safety concerns

With even Vancouver police saying they now fear for their safety on the Downtown Eastside, there are calls to resist a "quick fix" for the tent city in Oppenheimer Park. Catherine Urquhart reports.

Vancouver’s mayor says there are no plans in the short term to evict campers from a growing homeless camp in the Downtown Eastside’s Oppeheimer Park.

That’s amid growing safety concerns at the park that’s now housing up to 100 tents, and particularly in the wake of two incidents last week.

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In one case, a man was shot across the street from the park on Powell Street, while in the second case on the same day, a Vancouver police officer working in the area was assaulted.

WATCH: Oppenheimer Park campers push back on police safety concerns

Last week, the VPD said it had seen a “sharp increase” in violence in and around the park in recent months, adding that officers now patrol the area in groups of four for safety.

On Tuesday, Mayor Kennedy Stewart was asked if he thought the area was still safe.

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“I think it’s a tough place to live, and it’s a tough place to work. So I know everybody is doing their best. It’s a city, things happen, but we’re trying to keep it as safe as we can for everybody,” said Stewart.

Pressed on any plans to clear the camp out, Stewart had this to say:

“At this point, we’re trying to get everybody housing, that’s the main thing.”

WATCH: Growing concerns about Downtown Eastside Vancouver park

COPE Coun. Jean Swanson said providing housing is the only way to solve the problems in the park in the long term.

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“The solution is very simple. Take some tax money from people who can afford to pay — and there’s lots of them — and use that money to build housing so no one has to sleep on the street,” she said.

According to police, there were 179 emergency calls in Oppenheimer Park in May and June. Police say they received 112 calls during the same two-month period last year.

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Park residents and their supporters have rejected the idea that the area is unsafe, noting that for campers the encampment is safer than sleeping alone on the street.

Stewart said his focus now is on pressing senior levels of government to secure more funding for social housing. Stewart is slated to meet with federal officials on Thursday.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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