Vancouver abandons plan to open Jericho Hostel as shelter for city's homeless population

·3 min read
The City of Vancouver has abandoned plans to temporarily house people camping in Strathcona Park at the Jericho Hostel.
The City of Vancouver has abandoned plans to temporarily house people camping in Strathcona Park at the Jericho Hostel.

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The City of Vancouver has abandoned plans to use the Jericho Hostel in West Point Grey as temporary housing for people experiencing homelessness.

A statement from a city spokesperson said the hostel's location, lack of transit and services, the age of the building and accessibility issues made it a poor candidate for shelter space.

"After touring the space and consulting with B.C. Housing and potential operators, the decision has been made to not activate this space as a shelter," reads the statement.

The city says resistance from residents of the wealthy West Side neighbourhood was not a factor in the decision.

"Staff were confident that the partners could work with neighbours to reasonably address any concerns that might arise due to operationalization of the site were it to proceed, as we have with other shelter implementations across the city," the spokesperson wrote in a follow-up email.

Speaking on CBC's The Early Edition, Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry said there was pushback from the neighbourhood, but ultimately it was issues of practicality that led the Jericho Hostel being dropped.

"They cited the congregate setting, like, eight bunks to a room," he said. "It's far away from the Downtown Eastside, there's no services on site at all, there's not even a place to buy smokes nearby."

A newly installed fence is pictured enclosed around temporary homeless shelters at Strathcona Park in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, February 12, 2021.
A newly installed fence is pictured enclosed around temporary homeless shelters at Strathcona Park in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, February 12, 2021.

In December, the city announced a "voluntary transition" plan to move campers at the Strathcona Park tent city into temporary housing at Jericho Hostel and Motel 2400 on Kingsway, both city-owned properties.

Donnie Rosa, general manager of the Vancouver Park Board, said once the indoor space had been secured for the encampment's residents, the board would move to enforce the city's no-camping bylaw, possibly through a court injunction.

At the time, Sandra Singh, general manager of Arts, Culture, and Community Services, said the city required provincial funding to follow through with the plan.

According to Tuesday's statement, the Motel 2400 is still being looked at as an option by the city and B.C. Housing, but no decision has been made. The city spokesperson said staff are reviewing "a number of potential sites" for temporary housing.

Fry, who lives in Strathcona, said the city's eastside has been unfairly burdened with social challenges.

"There shouldn't be some perception that the West Side of Vancouver is immune to doing its share of carrying the weight of our collective challenges in this city," he said.

On Monday, B.C. Attorney General David Eby announced in a news release 60 new shelter spaces at the former Army and Navy department store site at 15-27 West Hastings St. and $1.8 million in funding for a 60-bed temporary housing project at 875 Terminal Ave.

The Vancouver Park Board recently erected a two-metre high fence through the middle of Strathcona Park in an effort to reclaim part of the park for recreational use.