As Vancouver enters the recovery phase in the pandemic and starts opening up commercial businesses, it is important for locals to get out and patronize them. Chains and franchises will have broader support, but the independent shops will be relying on locals to make the difference.
Last week Randy Shore in the Vancouver Sun wrote about the challenges for shop owners on Jim Deva plaza, Bute Street at Davie. With store fronts having articulated facades it was a perfect place for homeless folks to camp out in while the stores were closed. One shop owner found several people camped “in her entryway smoking meth and using heroin”.
Their calls to the Business Improvement Area helped carve out an approach for the business to open and to provide a level of safety and security for customers. While the Provincial government has assisted to find accommodation for over two hundred people who had been living in Openheimer Park, there have simply been more vacant storefronts in the west end available to provide refuge for homeless people.
Tyee writer Stanley Woodvine has been detailing how challenging it is for homeless people on the street during the pandemic. Think of it~there are no libraries or public commmunity centres to sit in to warm up or read the newspaper, nowhere to check a computer terminal. Most public washrooms are closed, and there’s no places to wash hands or fill a water bottle.
There’s a similar situation causing friction between business owners and homeless people occurring in the 500 and 600 blocks of Evans Avenue which is close to the railway terminal. Evans Avenue runs parallel to Terminal Avenue near the East 1st Avenue overpass.
There’s a mix of industrial and business offices across from a grassy hill that abuts the railroad yards. No water access or latrines exist on that grassy knoll which is private land. The homeless people camping on it have no services of any kind. Neighbouring businesses have experienced altercations and break ins, with one large business having to keep vehicles inside the warehouse instead of the parking lot during the day to stop metal theft. Their garbage bins are commandeered to provide privacy screens for latrine use, and the businesses’ front entrance ways shelter drug users.
That area falls outside the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan and is not in the subarea for the Strathcona Business Improvement Area. While the business owners did call the City of Vancouver inspectors several times because of defecation, garbage, and female staff being accosted, there was never a resolution. On the weekend a 24 foot motor home burnt up on the street , taking the Fire Department one hour to douse.
It’s clear that the City’s post pandemic plan does need to include what Councillor Pete Fry calls “intertwined” issues “such as homelessness, public safety and business recovery.”
But who is that agency that will co-ordinate the balance between homeless people not having any access to basic sanitary necessities and that of businesses that will need assistance to safely start up? And where do these businesses go to get that assistance to at least try to reopen and recover?
Images: CBC,CTV & News1130