Further measures are underway to remove a homeless encampment from an East Vancouver park, where it has been in place for about 10 months.

The Vancouver Park Board announced today (March 30) that it has issued a general manager’s order for all tents, temporary shelters, and structures to be removed from the northeast corner of Strathcona Park by 10 a.m. on Thursday (April 8).

This order is an extension of the previous one issued on February 10, which prohibits temporary shelters from the west side of the park.

A civilized and modern society is measured by how well it cares for the most vulnerable and marginalized. That includes people experiencing homelessness.

Raphaël “Napa” André died alone in January during a curfew, huddled inside a portable toilet near a closed shelter he used to frequent. It’s a sad example of the absurdity of some of the government’s pandemic measures, which have used COVID-19 as a pretext to flout human rights. In February, the city of Montreal boarded up the benches in the Bonaventure metro station, where people experiencing homelessness used to go. It was a way to exclude them from a safe space where they could gather, something all the more necessary considering the frequent changes in the services offered by shelters (locations, hours, facilities) since the beginning of this crisis. And I haven’t even mentioned the fiasco of the Notre-Dame tent camp. Dismantled by police last December, it may face the same fate this year.

At CPJ we have always maintained that an end to poverty in Canada can only be attained through a suite of comprehensive, rights-based policies. Poverty must be addressed as a matter of health, employment, education, food security, housing, and income. But even more fundamentally, it must be addressed as a matter of human rights and dignity.

To end poverty, we need a comprehensive suite of universally-accessible public programs, regulatory standards, and fair taxation. No one program or sector can do this alone, including basic income. Income alone cannot solve a lack of housing stock or childcare spaces. It cannot replace supportive, culturally responsive, professional services. Advocates of basic income agree that adequate income must be provided in tandem with other rights-based policies and programs to ensure people get the supports that meet their needs.

Do we judge homeless people, blaming them? Surely they squandered money, got fired or are lazy.

But many homeless have mental issues, addictions, medical issues, disabilities and no family support.

Clinical psychologist Sam Tsemberis acted when he saw homeless programs in New York were not working.

Homeless people had to show they had overcome addiction and mental illness, and found work, before getting housing.

Social agencies were putting the cart before the horse by not housing them first.

The District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board (DNSSAB) says the crisis centre and low-barrier homeless shelter have been experiencing and “overflow” of those needing services since Jan. 1.

It’s a concern that continues to worry staff.

“We haven’t been turning individuals away, especially during the cold winter nights,” said Stacey Cyopeck, the board’s director of housing programs. “With the pandemic, that’s not something we want to be doing.”

Newly released figures from Statistics Canada show that for several years ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rates of both poverty and income inequality had been trending downwards.

And while the pandemic led to major economic disruption, government interventions so far appear to have been enough to continue the downward trend.

The Downtown Mission is open again after the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) rescinded its temporary closure order. The news was announced Thursday in separate statements by the Downtown Mission (DTM), the city and the health unit.

The order was put in place by the health unit Feb. 22 after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared, with cases showing up among both staff and clients of the shelter. although the Mission had voluntary closed a few days earlier.

The closure affected the Mission’s facilities at 850 Ouellette Ave. and 664 Victoria Ave. and led to the creation of a temporary shelter at the International Aquatic and Training Centre.