From the Editor: Parks provide the homeless population a cool place during hot summer days

Eviction is not a solution for people experiencing homelessness during heat waves

(Kristen Frier)

(Kristen Frier)

During the last week of June, those of us who live in Metro Vancouver felt temperatures up to or over 40 degrees. Unfortunately, this will be one of the many heat waves we’ll face. 

The heat wave hit many communities across Metro Vancouver and British Columbia, one of them being the homeless population who struggled to stay cool during those hot summer days. 

Many found shelter in parks, where the trees provided shade and the grass provided humidity. However, in CRAB Park people experiencing homelessness were being evicted. Some are being sheltered, and others have nowhere to go.

This isn’t the first time the homeless population got evicted from parks. In April, 184 people were moved out of Strathcona Park. 

From June 25 to 28, B.C.’s Coroners Service reported 233 deaths, many of which they believe to be caused by the heat waves. Then from June 25 to July 1, there were a total of over 800 reported deaths, some to be determined if they were caused by the heat waves. 

Many people who experience homelessness don’t have access to air conditioning or fans to cool them off. A Homeless Hub article found that long term heat exposure can cause insomnia due to intolerable sleeping conditions along with the “risk of food spoilage [which] heightens the risk for illness.” 

“People experiencing homelessness are already under significant stress from difficult living conditions. Adding unbearable heat for long periods can reduce coping mechanisms and a person’s temper may increase as patience and tolerance shorten,” reads the article

Evicting people without homes from parks like CRAB and Strathcona Park or areas in which they feel comfortable and placing them into new environments adds to their stress because they could feel like they don’t have a stable place to live. 

“Hot temperatures can also cause some to take increased risks in order to beat the blazing heat by swimming in dangerous and/or polluted waters, trespassing to access cool areas, drinking alcohol more heavily than normal, using drugs to escape the misery,” reads the article

The City of Vancouver keeps on playing a game of ping pong housing with the homeless population instead of asking them where they might feel most comfortable to stay. 

Places like parks during the summer months are the best option for some people experiencing homelessness as shelters have limited beds and curfews, which people might find restrictive. 

Others might want to stay living in their tents because they find it more personalized than the shelters where they might encounter theft, violence, and a lack of personal space.

Legalized encampments can be an option the city could consider for people who prefer to live in their tents during the summer months. When Prince George City Councillor Cori Ramsay proposed the idea of encampments to B.C.’s housing minister David Eby, he rejected it by saying that he doesn’t believe they are safe options.

However, legalized encampments could be a safe option if the city installs direct sanitation facilities and places the encampment near health facilities, food services, and any other necessary amenities.  

“For people who have couch surfed or shelter hopped, encampments can provide a sense of stability. Encampments also provide 24/7 access to one’s belongings and bed, unlike many shelters that operate on a twelve-hour schedule. This can be especially problematic for people who work night shifts and need to rest during the day,” reads an article by Homeless Hub.  

Evicting people who experience homelessness from informal encampments is a costly practice. It can “have a detrimental effect on various aspects of resident’s lives, including their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing,” reads the article

Some of the people who were evicted from CRAB park are making their way back to Strathcona Park, where more than 100 people brought their tents and belongings because they had nowhere else to go. 

And back at CRAB park, 46 people who were protesting against the eviction got arrested, according to a CBC article. 

As the heat waves make their way into Metro Vancouver, the City of Vancouver and other municipalities should begin to ask the homeless population what their needs and preferences are and hopefully put an end to this ping pong game.