City of Vancouver apologizes for damage caused during daily street sweeps in the Downtown Eastside | Radio-Canada News

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The City of Vancouver apologized for the damage caused during daily “street sweepings” of the Downtown Eastside and pledged to find another way to keep the streets clear in a statement sent to UKTN on Wednesday.

The apology follows a motion before Vancouver City Council on Tuesday night calling for changes to the way sweeps are conducted.

During these sweeps, which take place daily from Monday to Friday, city workers accompanied by police remove debris from the sidewalks of the Downtown Eastside.

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The city said its crews are trained to remove trash, trash and abandoned structures, but not items that are “clearly personal effects.”

But defenders say sweepers sometimes throw things people enjoy.

“We sincerely regret and apologize for any harm and trauma that has been created as a result of this work and recognize that important pieces were discarded,” Taryn Scollard, deputy general manager of engineering, said in the statement.

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The motion, which was presented by Councillor. Jean Swanson, calls on the city to develop an alternative community-led process to clean the streets using peer workers rather than the police.

It also calls for the development of storage facilities and the creation of a system for people to easily retrieve stolen items.

A tent at Crab Park located on the shores of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet on Wednesday. A Pivot Legal Society sign posted on it reads, “This tent is my home.” (Justine Boulin/Radio-Canada)

The motion was not put to a vote, but Scollard said city staff will incorporate elements of the motion into their work with the community this summer. She said they will have more information to share in the coming weeks.

const. Steve Addison of the Vancouver Police Department said in a statement to UKTN that officers will no longer accompany city workers after July 1.

Addison said the city asked officers to accompany the workers due to safety concerns.

“We have long maintained that this is an inappropriate use of police resources and not basic policing, but we have temporarily compelled the request,” Addison wrote.

Personal effects taken away

Meenakshi Mannoe, who works as an activist at the Pivot Legal Society, said sweeping streets to keep sidewalks clear and safe made sense in theory.

In reality, however, Mannoe said the way the city implements the policy displaces people who depend on public space.

According to a report by several organizations, including the Pivot Legal Society, personal property worth an estimated $2,410 was seized by sweepers over a five-day period in 2021.

Through interviews with people who suffered street sweeps, they found that the stolen items included tents, clothing, documents, ID cards, mobility devices, heirlooms and photos. .

Mannoe said those belongings are either thrown away or stored in a way that makes it difficult for people to retrieve them.

“People aren’t told where their property is taken. They don’t get a receipt of what was taken… What we hear from people is that their property is ransacked.”

A game of ‘Whack-a-mole’

A city employee who performs these sweeps once compared his job to playing “Whack-a-mole” because he was constantly relocating people, Swanson said.

“They move people from one place and then they go to another place. And then they have to move them from that place, etc.”

Tents and structures in front of a concert hall, The Imperial, located on Main Street in Vancouver. (Justine Boulin/Radio-Canada)

Swanson recalled a sweep she watched where a man with pneumonia was asked to move his tent from Oppenheimer Park on a cold day.

“He had no place to put his tent, no way to transport it or anything…he just threw up his hands and left.”

As a volunteer with the Carnegie Community Action Project at the time, she knew there was no housing available for him.

As the motion did not advance to council on Tuesday, the city announced that speakers would not be heard at Wednesday’s standing committee meeting.

The Pivot Legal Society said in a statement that more than 30 community members have registered to speak in support of the motion at Wednesday’s meeting.

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