Category "Downtown Eastside"


Call for new shelter to house Oppenheimer Park tent city holdouts

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Gary Humchitt at Oppenheimer park in Vancouver, BC Wednesday, September 25, 2019. Nearly a hundred tents dot the landscape at the park which has pitted various levels of local government and agencies against each other as to how best handle the homeless encampment.

Jason Payne / PNG

Calls will be made to Vancouver city council on Tuesday to create a new shelter, or rent a hotel, to house about 60 people who remain at the Oppenheimer Park tent city.

The first of two motions to council will be presented by COPE councillor and longtime anti-poverty advocate Jean Swanson.

Swanson’s motion is called Emergency Action to Support Vancouver’s Homeless People, Including Those in Oppenheimer Park and states that there are no more B.C. Housing units available to remaining campers.


The Oppenheimer Park camp in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside began in Oct. 2018 with a few tents and grew to 200 tents in early Aug. 2019.

August 18, 2019. The Oppenheimer Park tent city at its peak.



On Aug. 19, Vancouver park board manager Malcolm Bromley ordered all tents/structures be removed within two days. At the same time, B.C. Housing made available to campers 123 B.C. Housing units, 11 City of Vancouver units and stated there were 60 shelter spaces available (some tent city residents have told Postmedia News that they would rather be in a tent than at a shelter.) A Supreme Court of B.C. injunction is required to remove campers by force, and as there was no injunction the remaining campers and their tents stayed in the park.

Last Thursday, during a presentation to Vancouver parks board by City of Vancouver deputy city manager Paul Mochrie, he stated that 130 campers accepted the housing offers, over half of whom were First Nations, and 34 per cent women.

August 20, 2019. Some residents are packing up to leave Oppenheimer park in Vancouver, BC, August 20, 2019.

Arlen Redekop /


Mochrie said that there were currently 120 tents on the site — between Powell Street to the north and East Cordova in the south, with Dunlevy Avenue on the west and Jackson Avenue to the east — with about 55 people still staying in the park who were in contact with city outreach workers. He said 40 were male, 14 female and one trans and noted “a small number of people have declined to identify themselves or are not interested in Outreach’s assistance.”

In her motion, Swanson calls for city staff and agencies to meet with residents “about an accessible alternative site that ensures health and safety, access to services and supports, and is acceptable and appropriate for people currently living in Oppenheimer Park. Swanson states the site needs a community kitchen, electricity, storage, toilets with running water and there be a warming tent in Oppenheimer Park.

She also calls for an emergency homelessness task force to be formed to look at buying or leasing one of more hotels for Oppenheimer Park residents.

The second motion is being put forward by Green councillor Michael Wiebe and NPA councillor Lisa Dominato and is titled A Collaborative and New Approach to Oppenheimer Park and Other Public Spaces.

It starts by stating “Vancouver is experiencing unprecedented housing and mental health and addiction issues,” and that “there are a significant number of persons living on the city’s streets, or out of their cars, due to the shortage of appropriately affordable housing who simply require access to shower and washroom facilities to support them on their path to permanent housing or employment.”

At last week’s park board meeting, commissioners heard that the number of people sleeping on the streets in Vancouver had risen almost 300 per cent since 2011 — to 614 in 2019.

In the motion, Wiebe and Dominato ask that Mayor Kennedy Stewart — who in early September unsuccessfully asked that parks board hand over the Oppenheimer Park file to the city — send a letter to parks board asking that the “current impasse” at the park be “resolved swiftly” for all concerned. They also want council to develop a decampment plan with the goal of “restoring the park for broad public use.”

The pair are also calling for council to direct staff to apply for provincial government funding “for the establishment of a low-barrier shelter in the city that can suitably address the specific needs of those currently encamped in Oppenheimer Park.”

The majority of councillors and mayor need to vote in favour of a motion to be passed, and often the motion is amended during the council meeting.

Vancouver’s council is comprised of an independent mayor, five from the Non-Partisan Association, three from the Green party and one from COPE.

The Vancouver park board has the power to apply for an injunction to end the tent city, but are not prepared to do that at this point. In 2014 the park board did use an injunction to end another homeless camp in Oppenheimer Park.

Oct. 16, 2014. A woman sorts through her belongings as tents come down and police and city workers clean up Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver on October 16, 2014.


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Cookbook to serve up profits to help feed underprivileged in Downtown Eastside

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Food Stories: A Cookbook for a Cause delivers delicious recipes while also serving up personal stories that are good for the soul.

There are 21 B.C. chefs highlighted in the book ($40 at Gourmet Warehouse and at foodforall.ca). All the profits from the project will be donated to A Better Life Foundation meal program that helps to get food to people in need on in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“It’s not about advertising for restaurants,” said Jenn Coe who created Food For All, the publishing the imprint for Food Stories, with her partner Sherwin Ngan.

“It is a story of hardship, and how that can inspire you to give back and nourish. These chefs all seem to come from a similar thread. Even if it isn’t a story of hardship it’s an experience or circumstance that motivated them day in and day out for 12 to 15 hour days. You’re feeding people, it is a beautiful thing, and it usually stems from some experience.”

The road to the publication began when the couple’s seven-year-old sons Quinn and Jonathan raised $20,000 for a family in need. The pair’s hard work and dedication inspired Coe and Ngan to start their publishing platform and to focus on the issue of food insecurity.

Food For All publishers Jenn Coe, left, and Sherwin Ngan with their sons Quinn, left, and Johnathan. Photo credit: Hakan Burcuoğlu

Hakan Burcuoglu /


Sherwin and Coe then enlisted Vancouver’s Mark Brand, founder of A Better Life Foundation. They knew that Brand, the proprietor of Save-On Meats, believed food is a human right and that he was on the front lines when it came to the fight against food insecurity.

They asked to meet with Brand to talk about the book and the donation to his foundation. Also at that meeting last fall was Hakan Burcuoğlu, the founder of the blog/online magazine The Curatorialist. He had been with Brand earlier to take pictures for his blog and Brand had suggested he come along to the meeting.

Hakan Burcuoğlu is the writer and photographer for the cookbook Food Stories: A Cookbook for a Cause. Photo: Linda Gallo

Hakan Burcuoğlu /


“He told me that a couple of good Samaritans founded a publishing company and wanted to publish a book for his foundation,” said Burcuoğlu.

Soon Burcuoğlu found himself volunteering to write and shoot the project free of charge, and dove right in with his own recipe for the type of cookbook he wanted to own and read.

“I own a lot of cookbooks, and I have some personal bones to pick with compilation cookbooks specifically because I feel the common denominator for compilation cookbooks is just all these chefs are from the same city,” said Burcuoğlu.

“There’s nothing that threads it otherwise. There is no monofilament that threads all these stories. It’s kind of arbitrary, so I wanted to create a compilation cookbook where it would be something more special. The sentiment, the feeling that threads this book is that of intimacy. It’s of private heartfelt memories. It’s of poignance. Some chefs featured in the book have shared very, very private memories.”

Some of those stories include the topics of transitioning and coming out.

“The vision was always to create something that transcended being a mere object of charity,” said Burcuoğlu.

“We wanted it to be literature. We wanted it to be artful. We wanted it to be colourful. Lots of good pictures … the human aspect of this business.”

The stories are interesting and the pictures are lovely and as comfortable as the food. Nothing in Food Stories screams stylists have been here.

“These recipes are not arbitrary; these recipes are from their own childhood, from their own providence,” said Burcuoğlu. “Every single recipe from every chef holds a tremendous place in their hearts and minds. They mean the world to these chefs.”

This is a charitable endeavour that hopes to help out the ever-increasing problem of food insecurity.

“There are people like me who were single moms living in basement suites who are getting decent salaries but still not enough to live in Vancouver in particular,” said Coe.

“Those are the things that don’t meet the eye. It’s not the Downtown Eastside that’s really dramatic and shocking, it’s your everyday people that you wouldn’t expect that are sending their kid off to school with some crackers in their lunch box that’s it. They are going malnourished, and that leads to mental health and that leads to health care dollars. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Coe says the long-term goal is for Food For All to expand the book model into other cities and communities across North America.

“That would be so great,” Coe said.



Kadieann Tighe’s artichoke cakes with vegan hollandaise. Photo: Hakan Burcuoğlu

Hakan Burcuoğlu /


Artichoke Cakes and Mushrooms with Vegan Hollandaise

Created by chef Kadieann Tighe

1 can (400g) artichoke hearts, drained

1 celery stalk, roughly chopped

1 cup (250 mL) panko breadcrumbs

1/8 cup (30 mL) whole wheat flour

4 cloves garlic, divided

1 tbsp (15 mL) chives, chopped

1/4 tsp (1 mL) Old Bay seasoning

Salt, to taste

Vegetable oil, for frying

2 king oyster mushrooms, cleaned, tops removed

Extra virgin olive oil

2 sprigs thyme

Black pepper, freshly cracked, to taste

1 1/2 tbsp (22.5 mL) vegan butter

1 tbsp (15 mL) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (125 mL)  almond milk, or other non-dairy milk

1 pinch turmeric

1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice

1.2 tsp (2.5 mL) nutritional yeast

Artichoke Cakes: In a food processor, pulse together the artichoke hearts, celery, bread crumbs, flour, 2 cloves garlic, herbs and spices. Stop periodically to scrape down the sides to blend evenly. Leave mixture in a chunky consistency, do not over blend. Season with salt to taste.

Divide mixture into 4 equal parts to form patties. Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook patties on each side for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until they form a brown crust.

Mushrooms: Cut mushroom stems into 5 cm chunks and soak overnight in a bowl of warm water. Remove from water and pat dry.

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium — high heat. Pour in oil to cover the pan. Add thyme and lightly mashed garlic. Place mushrooms in the skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown in colour.

Vegan Hollandaise Sauce: Melt butter in a small pot over low heat. Once melted, add the flour, and whisk to make a roux. Slowly pour in about half the milk, whisking constantly. Then add the rest of the ingredients, while continuing to whisk. Once satisfied with the thickness and colour of the sauce, remove from heat. Set aside.

To serve: Portion cakes and mushrooms onto two plates. Drizzle the sauce generously over the artichoke cakes and enjoy.

Tips: The artichoke mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. For the artichoke cakes, you can blend the panko crumbs in the food processor and coat the patties before frying to give them a crispier texture.

Serves 2. 

Mushroom Soup

Created by chef Juno Kim

1 cup (250 mL) dehydrated mushrooms

Water, as needed

3 cups (750 mL) fresh mushrooms, any variety, sliced

3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil or grapeseed oil, divided

3 shallots or 1 onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp (5 mL) thyme, minced

1 tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar

Salt, to taste

4 1/4 (1.125 L) cups stock, chicken and/or vegetable

1 small lemon, juiced and zested

Smoked paprika or black pepper, freshly cracked, to taste

2 tbsp (30 mL) plain yogurt, for garnish

Toasted bread crumbs or croutons, for garnish

Soak dehydrated mushrooms in warm water and set aside. Meanwhile, heat a medium sized, heavy bottomed pot over medium — high heat. Pour in 2 tbsp (30 mL) of oil and add in the fresh mushrooms. Cook until golden brown in colour.

Add onion, garlic, along with the remaining oil, thyme, and vinegar. Salt liberally. Cook until onions become soft and translucent. Add hydrated mushrooms, along with their soaking liquid, into the mixture.

Cook for 2 minutes, then pour in the stock. Season with salt to taste. Lower heat, bring mixture to a simmer and leave to cook for 20 minutes. Once cooked, ladle half of the soup into a blender and purée until smooth. Return contents to the pot and combine well.

Taste and season with salt, paprika and lemon juice. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of yogurt, bread crumbs and lemon zest.

Tip: When serving, add seared fresh mushrooms on top of the soup for a special touch.

Serves four.


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Daphne Bramham: Why won’t B.C. fund Karly’s addiction recovery?

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As of today, Karly has been clean and sober for 30 days after four years of battling addiction.

Addiction made the 17-year-old from Chiliwack vulnerable to exploitation and bullying. It disrupted her schooling, left her psychotic, suicidal, near death and unable to care for her year-old baby.

“In addiction, I never thought I could be this happy without drugs,” she said earlier this week.

“There’s obviously times when I’m feeling like I don’t want to live any more. But I realize a lot of people do care for me, and it would hurt a lot of people if I did leave.”

Up until now, Karly didn’t worry that fentanyl laced in the cocaine, crystal meth and other street drugs she’s used might kill her, as it has more than 4,000 other British Columbians in the past four years.

“Honestly, I just thought I wasn’t going to get that wrong batch. I thought I could trust my dealers. Now, I’m starting to realize the risk. I was using alone. It’s pretty scary now that I think about it.

“I could have overdosed, my poor son he would have had no mom.”

But Karly’s recovery is at risk because the B.C. government is refusing to pay for her treatment. The question of why was bounced from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, back to addictions, then back to MCFD, and finally to Fraser Health over two days.

Friday afternoon, MCFD responded that due to privacy concerns it could not discuss the specifics of the case.

The spokesperson did confirm that the government pays for youth residential treatment. Funds are allocated by the health ministry to regional health authorities. MCFD social workers are supposed to refer youth and families to the health authority, which is supposed to do the assessments and placements.

Reached late Friday afternoon, Fraser Health said that it does not have provincial funding for youth beds at Westminster House, where Karly is getting treatment, only adult beds.

Postmedia editors and I are also concerned about Karly’s privacy and vulnerability. For that reason, we are not using her real name, or that of her mother.


On July 10, her mother Krista found Karly white-faced and barely breathing on the floor. It was a moment she had been bracing for since 2015.

Krista, who is a nurse, didn’t need the naloxone kit that she keeps at the ready. She shook Karly awake and got her into the car to take her to Surrey Creekside Withdrawal Management Centre.

En route, Karly flailed about, kicking in the glove box, banging her head against the window and screaming.

“She was in psychosis. She was not my child,” Krista said. “It took six nurses and two doctors to get her inside.”

At 9 p.m, Karly called her mom to say that if they didn’t let her out, she was going to escape, prostitute myself and get enough money to kill herself.

“I felt in my heart that she was really going to do it.”

Panicked, Krista called Susan Hogarth, Westminster House’s executive director, and begged for help. Westminster House is a residential treatment centre for women, with four designated youth beds in New Westminster.

Even though it was past midnight, Hogarth agreed to take Karly.

“We can’t not put a child somewhere,” Hogarth said this week.

The cost for treatment at Westminster House is $9,000 a month, meaning Krista needs $27,000 to pay for the three months of treatment that counsellors say Karly needs to be stabilized enough to go into second-stage care.

The crucial first month of treatment was covered using donations from individuals, and Hockey for the Homeless.

Now there are bills to be paid.


Krista’s only contact with the government has been through MCFD. A social worker helped Karly get mental health services, pre- and post-natal care and helped Krista gain guardianship of her year-old grandson last month.

It’s the social worker who told the family that the government would pay for a 10-week, co-ed live-in treatment program at Vancouver’s Peak House, but not Westminster House.

But Krista and Westminster House’s director believe a co-ed program that has no trauma counselling is not a good fit for Karly.

The only other option suggested was outpatient treatment. But Karly’s already tried and failed at that. Besides, her dealer lives two blocks from their home.

If Karly was an adult on welfare, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction would pay $30.90 a day for her room and board in residential care.

Bizarrely, Krista said the social worker suggested maybe Karly could just wait a year and then her treatment would be fully covered.

“This is f–ing BS. I can’t wait until she’s older. She’ll be dead,” said Krista, who has had her own problems with addiction. An alumni of Westminster House, she is four years into recovery.

Concerns about how to pay for Karly’s treatment in addition to caring for Karly’s baby and Karly’s younger sister are wearing heavily on Krista. She’s had to take a medical leave from her job, and is worried about how she will pay her rent.

She’s already spent four years in a constant state of readiness in case Karly overdoses. There’s naloxone in the house. The razors are hidden because “Karly cuts, cuts.” Every time Karly took a bath, Krista stood apprehensively by the door because her daughter had threatened to drown herself.

But now?

“She is doing amazing,” Krista said. “The first time I saw her was 15 to 16 days in, and she had colour in her cheeks and they were my kid’s eyes, beautiful brown . . .

“When I brought her son to see her, her smile so genuine. I had not seen it in so many years. The smile was what I remember of her as a kid.”

Hogarth wonders why the government can’t look at the bigger picture of what Karly’s untreated addiction might cost — from more overdoses to her mother’s fragile state to the fate of her son.

Everybody, Hogarth said, deserves a chance at recovery and not just harm reduction interventions.

“Karly is not the easiest client in the world,” she said with a laugh. “But she’s worth it because we want her to go home to her son and to be able to raise him.”

For now, the non-profit Westminster House is covering Karly’s costs with donations augmented by a GoFundMe campaign organized by Krista’s friends.

But it can’t do that forever, or without more donations.

As for Karly, for the first time in years she’s thinking about a future. She won’t be ready to start school in September, but plans to go back as soon as she can for Grade 12 and then go on to study so that she can work in health care.

“I feel like my story can help other people.”


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Vancouver council approves supports for homeless campers in city Park

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man stands by his tent as Vancouver Police and Fire crews check for safety violations at the homeless camp in Oppenheimer Park.


Vancouver’s council and park board have directed staff to provide support for dozens of campers living in Oppenheimer Park, but its not clear when that will happen.

The move comes as a new B.C. Coroners Service report has shown an alarming uptick of deaths of homeless people in the province, particularly in Vancouver.

Council earlier this month approved a motion directing city and park board staff to work together to provide 24-hour washroom access, storage facilities and a temporary warming station in or near Oppenheimer Park. The Downtown Eastside park has had, by some estimates, between 80 and 100 homeless people bedding down in tents each night in recent months, including through last month’s cold and snowy weather.

The council motion was introduced by COPE Coun. Jean Swanson, who says that in her four decades of anti-poverty work in the Downtown Eastside, she has never seen as many campers living in the park in snowy conditions as this year.

“For heaven’s sake, we have all those people living there, and they have no place to pee at night,” Swanson said Monday. “That is a public health nightmare.”

The city council motion, approved March 14, followed a similar motion approved on March 11 by the Vancouver park board, directing park board and city staff to work together to provide supports in Oppenheimer Park.

Those additional supports were not yet in place as of Monday, the City of Vancouver wrote in an emailed statement Monday, and “city staff are still determining the timeline and next steps for implementing the direction from the council motion.”

The original language of Swanson’s motion, which she tried to introduce last month, directed city staff to work with B.C. Housing “to rent a hotel or motel to house the Oppenheimer Park patrons.” But other councillors amended the motion this month to replace the words “rent a hotel or motel” with “continue to explore ways to fund temporary and/or permanent accommodations, with appropriate support services.”

Over the years, groups of varying sizes have camped in Oppenheimer Park, including a tent city that grew to as many as 200 tents in the fall of 2014. But the number of campers there this winter was thought to be a record high for the time of year, said Fiona York, a coordinator with the Carnegie Community Action Project, which supported Swanson’s motion.

Even during the cold spell last month, there were plenty of people living n tents in Oppenheimer Park.



York said Monday she had counted 42 tents in the park over this past weekend, many of which could be shared by two or three campers.

Last week, the Coroners Service released a report showing that in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics were available, the province had 175 deaths of homeless people, a 140 per cent increase over 2015. The city of Vancouver had a 250 per cent increase in deaths of homeless people in that period.

In 2016, 53 per cent of deaths of homeless people resulted from unintentional drug and/or alcohol poisoning, an increase over previous years. B.C.’s chief health officer declared a public health emergency in April 2016 over the surging number of drug overdoses, mostly linked to fentanyl.

Since 2017, Vancouver’s modular housing program has provided homes for 606 people who had been facing homelessness, using funding from the provincial government.

Many activists, including Swanson, have said the modular housing is a welcome addition, but the need far outstrips the supply.

The most recent Metro Vancouver homeless count found 3,605 people homeless in the region, up 30 per cent from the previous count in 2014. The City of Vancouver’s own count last year found 2,181 homeless residents in the city proper.

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