Vancouver Apologizes To Homeless For Trauma Caused By Street Cleanings
The city of Vancouver has apologized to homeless people for causing ‘harm’ during daily street sweeps in which personal belongings have been discarded.
The CBC reports that the apology comes on the heels of a Tuesday evening City Council discussion calling for changes to the way said sweeps are conducted.
Sweeps occur daily Monday through Friday, as a team of city workers accompanied by police officers clear debris from sidewalks of the Downtown Eastside. According to the city, crews are trained to remove litter, garbage and abandoned structures – but not “clearly personal belongings.”
According to homeless advocates, however, the sweepers sometimes throw out items that are valued by vagrants.
In October, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) called for an end to the daily sweeps – after interviews with nearly 100 homeless people reveled that people claim to have lost “invaluable personal belongings” to the cleanup efforts – including indigenous art, family photos and the ashes of loved ones.
“My boyfriend and I had our tents sliced up, and they used the excuse to say they are checking inside to see if there are overdoses taking place,” one homeless woman told the CBC.
During one five-day period in 2021, an estimated $2,410 worth of personal property was seized by sweepers, according to a report conducted by several organizations including Pivot Legal Society.
According to Pivot Legal Society campaigner Meenakshi Mannoe, things are thrown out or stored in a way that makes retrieval difficult.
“People aren’t given notice about where their belongings are taken. They’re not given a receipt on what was taken…. What we hear from folks is that their belongings are trashed.“
The city’s deputy general manager of engineering, Taryn Scollard, said in a statement that “We sincerely regret and apologize for any harm and trauma that has been created as a result of this work and recognize important items have been discarded.”
The Tuesday evening motion called for the city to develop an alternative community-led process for cleanups, rather than the police. What’s more, storage facilities and the creation of a ‘lost and found’ system will be part of the proposed changes.