Vancouver RV campers told to vacate city streets or face tickets and towing

·3 min read
Peter Carson has lived in a makeshift RV camp in East Vancouver for nearly two years, and doesn't know where he'll go if city crews proceed to clear out the area. (Jon Hernandez/CBC - image credit)
Peter Carson has lived in a makeshift RV camp in East Vancouver for nearly two years, and doesn't know where he'll go if city crews proceed to clear out the area. (Jon Hernandez/CBC - image credit)

Residents of more than two-dozen RVs and campers parked illegally near a Vancouver intersection have been told to leave or face fines and have their vehicles towed.

The makeshift camp near Slocan Street and East 12th Avenue currently houses at least 25 vehicles with people living inside. It's been there for about two years.

City officials say staff, including bylaw enforcement officers, have visited the site at least four times since the start of the year and warned them of an impending eviction. In the most recent notice, residents were told they must leave by May 26.

On Tuesday, residents spoke out against the city's plan, saying they have nowhere else to go.

"I don't consider myself homeless. I have a home ... I just don't have an address," said Connolly Watson, who has lived in his RV for five years. He says the accommodations are the only way many people are able to afford living in the city.

Connolly Watson has lived in an RV for years, including at the encampment near Slocan and 12th Avenue. He says the city's policy on large vehicle parking unfairly targets those who cannot afford rental housing.
Connolly Watson has lived in an RV for years, including at the encampment near Slocan and 12th Avenue. He says the city's policy on large vehicle parking unfairly targets those who cannot afford rental housing.(Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"It's wrong to turn us into criminals because we like living in an RV, a van, camper, car, trailer, whatever you want to call it," he added.

Parking on city streets for more than three hours at a time contravenes local bylaws, and no large vehicles like RVs are allowed to park overnight.

City cites safety concerns

Taryn Scollard, Vancouver's director of streets, said the city has been grappling with RVs cropping up in different neighbourhoods for years.

She said the encampment near Slocan and 12th has become particularly problematic because of its size, hygiene and proximity to a public school, noting that many of the campers are uninsured and not in drivable condition.

"We're seeing a lot of increased concerns in the area as the number of RVs increase," said Scollard. "Some of them are leaving debris on the streets. We've encountered human excrement."

An RV parked outside a Lowes store in East Vancouver is one of more than two dozen in the area.
An RV parked outside a Lowes store in East Vancouver is one of more than two dozen in the area.(Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Scollard says parents have also reported interactions between campers and children to both the city and to the VPD.

"We would be looking for people to move in the next week or two before we start actual tickets and towing," she said.

The city says its offering free towing for residents who are able to provide a location where they can park their vehicle legally.

Campers plan to hold a rally on eviction day, protesting the order to leave.
Campers plan to hold a rally on eviction day, protesting the order to leave.(Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Other camps targeted

The encampment on Slocan isn't the only one in the city's crosshairs. Officials say they are also clamping down on other locations, although not all of them will be on the same timeline.

Scollard says people who cannot find a place to go can have their vehicles stored for 30 days as they attempt to find accommodation.

Advocate Listen Chen says the municipality's offers provide little support for people living in vehicles.

"If the city wants to displace people, they need to work with other levels of government to build the quality of social housing, [that is] affordable at shelter and welfare rates so that everybody has the option of living in a safe, secure indoor space," she said.

Campers plan to hold a rally on eviction day, protesting the order to leave.