Emergency response needed for Vancouver’s homeless, advocates say

VANCOUVER —
Advocates for Vancouver’s homeless population are calling for an emergency response tailored to the hundreds of people who live in the city but don’t have a home.

Recent estimates suggest there are more than 2,200 homeless people living in Vancouver, according to the city. More than 600 of those are believed to be what advocates refer to as “unsheltered.”

Together with residents of areas including Oppenheimer Park, the group is calling on agencies including Health Canada, the City of Vancouver and the Red Cross to put a COVID-19 plan in place.

“How can you self-isolate when you don’t have a home? How do you wash your hands when you don’t have a sink?” a statement announcing a Tuesday morning news conference read.

Among the issues highlighted by the community is a shortage of soap and hand sanitizers in Oppenheimer Park.

The park, which is being used as a tent city, does have washrooms, but sometimes the facilities are closed, and running water is limited.

Also an issue is that those who live in the park, and other homeless Vancouverites, rely on crowded shelters and drop-in centres, and often wait in line for food. Social distancing is a challenge, and washrooms are shared.

“Many are immune compromised, with chronic disease and disability, and a high percentage are seniors. The vast majority don’t have phones to call 811 for testing or help,” the news release said.

This is a developing news story and will be updated. Check back for more.

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