Murray Rankin, acting Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, has issued the following statement about the encampment on Hastings Street in Vancouver:

“Housing is a human right and the deeply concerning scenes from Hastings Street demonstrate how much more work we have to do to make that a reality for everyone in our communities.

“Since 2017, our government has massively expanded supportive housing, helping house over 1,400 people in Vancouver who now have homes and the supports they need to make a fresh start. 

“These are our neighbours, our friends and our family members. While the Province is not involved in the fire chief’s order or local bylaw enforcement on Hastings Street, we are bringing all of BC Housing’s resources to bear to do what we can to secure housing for people. I am in direct contact with Mayor Kennedy Stewart to ensure that we are working together as closely as possible with the city to find housing solutions for those currently living on Hastings Street.

“BC Housing has never let up, continuously working to secure additional homes and shelter spaces in Vancouver. Our government has already converted many available spaces into accommodation for people, and we have 700 new supportive homes on the way over the longer term in Vancouver. But right now, we’re at an in-between moment where access to new spaces is limited. When word came of the impending order from the fire chief, we were clear with the city and fire services that, despite our ongoing efforts to secure additional housing, we did not have access to large numbers of spaces to accommodate the order on short notice.

“Outreach teams are offering the limited number of spaces we do have available, and BC Housing has further accelerated its efforts to secure new housing and shelter for people on Hastings Street. We are pursuing new sites to lease or purchase and expediting renovations on single-room occupancy (SRO) units as they become vacant, so we can reopen them as soon as possible, remaining mindful that some people are living outside because their current SRO accommodation is challenging, especially in the summer. There are currently dozens of SRO units being assessed for remediation work, and several locations are being explored for additional shelter activation. It is our goal to have a limited number of remediated SRO spaces available next week, with more opening in September and in the fall.

“As the city identifies new sites for interim housing and builds a plan for bylaw enforcement, we are prepared to move as quickly as possible to secure housing for our neighbours on Hastings.

“I recognize the profound uncertainty and upheaval people impacted by the fire order are facing, and we will provide updates on this work as we have news to share.

“At the same time, we continue to open new complex-care homes across the province for people who need even more intensive mental-health and addictions care, and we are launching new upstream supports to break the cycle of homelessness and prevent people from losing their homes in the first place.

“While the spotlight is on Hastings right now, we must not forget that people are experiencing homelessness in communities across the province. We are determined to keep rolling out new homes and supports across B.C. to provide the homes and care people so desperately need.”