Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

What, if any, role do you see the Park Board playing in responding to critical social issues such as homelessness, the opioid epidemic, and social isolation?

Cliff Relph (Independent): “Part of my platform is revitalizing our community centers to become more social hubs so people can connect, and reducing their costs and making them more competitive will help deal with social isolation. With homelessness and opioids, Community centers need to support groups that are able to address that more directly, so offering resources that the Parks Board isn’t immediately using to help out those organizations is probably one of the better ways that the Parks Board can help.”

Gwen Giesbrecht (COPE): “The 23 Community Centre operations that fall within PB JOA agreement already play a vital role in addressing solutions to these systemic problems. With resources, and innovative, place-based action much more could be done.”

Rick Hurlbut (Pro Vancouver): “We need to expand the number of and better train our Park Board Rangers. They often become first responders in the face of addiction and mental illness. At the very least, they should be able to refer someone to community services or take a moment to listen. Homelessness won’t be solved by allowing people to camp in our parks; however, Park Board can play a role in monitoring what occurs within the parks, and use this data to inform City Council and intervention organizations as to remediation options.”

Dave Demers (Green Party): “As our city densifies, parks become the backyard of more and more people – or the ‘home’ of many of the homeless. Therefore, our park rangers and workers are the eyes and ears that help ensure safety and peaceful sharing of our green spaces. While we are not advocating for park workers to be become social workers, we acknowledge that they play an important role in collaborating with other levels of government.”

Stuart Mackinnon (Green Party): “Community Centres can and should be used for emergency shelters when temperatures become unmanageable on the streets. In the past term some Commissioners wanted to close these facilities and leave the most vulnerable to freeze on the streets. Luckily this was defeated. While the park board alone cannot solve the social problems of Vancouver, in partnership with the City, Coastal Health, the police, and other partner agencies, we can work together to find safe spaces where our vulnerable population can find shelter and support. Working with other agencies we can keep our parks clean and safe. Working together as a community we can ensure that all public spaces are open to all.”

Mathew Kagis (Work Less Party): “A topic very close to my heart. I volunteered with the OPS (overdose Prevention Society) for 6 months, shortly after Sarah Blyth started it up. And I do believe that the park board has a role to play. On the opioid crisis: I would like all park maintenance staff and rangers trained in the use of Naloxone, carry kits and sharps containers on their regular rounds. I’m also radical enough to suggest that we star a pop up safe injection site program. Identify the parks where there are regular drug users and follow Sara’s model: pavilion tent, tables chairs and clean equipment, trained staff/volunteers. On homelessness: First and foremost, our anti camping bylaw is unconstitutional and needs to go. Of course, the City needs to step up with more Modular Housing, and a long term plan for permanent social housing. In the short term, I would like to find appropriate areas to set up basic support services in our parks: toilets, water, cleaning stations and allow those who need to camp to do so. On social isolation: This ties directly back into my first platform point, increasing the number of permanent community gardens in parks. Get neighbors growing food and flowers side by side, give them a chance to make those connections.”

John Coupar (NPA): “Our Park Rangers are an essential connector to people suffering from homelessness, addiction and illness in our Parks. Our Rangers are ambassadors and are often able develop relationships of trust with those in vulnerable situations.These connections and their ability to connect them with the appropriate agencies can be transformational. I support an expanded Park Ranger program in our Parks.”

Ann-Marie Copping (NPA): “Our platform calls for extended hours and funding for the Park Ranger program. Our Park Rangers , with the right training, can connect some of our most vulnerable citizens with the services they need while helping others feel safe when using our parks.”

Casey Crawford (NPA): “The Park Board, and in particular front-line staff such as Park Rangers have essentially become first responders as the city struggles with critical issues like the opioid crisis and homelessness. To support staff and provide better support for the community, we need two things – better funding for Park Rangers to increase availability and provide appropriate coverage for over 230 parks in the system; Park Board staff needs access to the resources and support systems for referral. In many ways, the struggles have been left with the park system that is ill equipped for the crisis, and Commissioners need to get the message to higher levels of government that people need help that can only come through housing, mental health and addiction supports, not just shuttled from place to place.”

Leo Heba (YES Vancouver): “I believe that when presented or faced with an issue, it’s important to act and not blame or push the decision off to another. The Park Board can work with city staff, and non-profits to ensure that those that are homeless (camping out in parks) are presented with support, compassion and opportunities to be homed. I strongly believe in a proactive approach, where PB Staff work alongside other partners, ensuring that our staff are well equipped with either information and support required when dealing with homelessness. I am also very much for increasing the number of Park Rangers, and promoting stewardship and public safety education so citizens are informed.

I also think that park staff should get training on what to do when an overdose occurs, as unfortunately it is more and more prevalent in our city.

In regards to isolation, PB can keep promoting and organizing events that reach out to different people in the community. Linking back to diversity in parks, it’s important that we have different types of spaces and programs for all kinds of people.”

Chris Fuoco (Vancouver First): “Such a big Question. I believe park Board can play a role but believe the provincial health system should be the lead on these items.

How specifically can Park Board help?
I. Heating and Cooling Respite centresfot the homeless.
II. Food/Meal and essentials (socks, Touques, tooth brushes/mail) Pick-up locations.
III. Meeting Place for health professionals to meet Homeless and impoverished persons (every dorr is the right door Phylosophy)
IV. Social Time, music, sowers and more (Tea and Coffee) could be a service point for people in distress.
V. Emergency Disaster response and support centres for Homeless and the entire community.”

Tricia Barker (NPA): “I appreciate the role our Community Centres play in helping people but we must make sure the added funds are there for these services to continue. I would also like to see an increase in the number of Park Rangers we have ensuring everyone’s safety. These Rangers are often an ongoing contact with the people in need. When I was a teenager I experienced homelessness. The most profound lasting memory of those times is not the hunger or cold, but the kindness of when someone stepped up to make the tragedy a little less severe. I hope we can be that help for someone that needs our assistance today.”

Gregory Edgelow (Pro Vancouver):

  • “Being mindful, educated and compassionate approach is the most socially acceptable. Sitting at the table with relevant community associations and social/health/housing organizations, policing, youth services, parks board, city, park commissioners to sit at the table and discuss collaborative and cooperative solutions.
  • The public needs to know that the parks Board is concerned both for the issues befalling society and the need to address these, but also the public taxpayers who are displaced from these spaces.
  • Compassion fatigue is an issue with the public and all parties need to come to the table to find real solutions with timelines that are in respect of all parties
  • Communication, education, understanding, mindfulness and compassion solutions based dialogue is imperative.”

Pall Beelsa (NPA): “Park Rangers, supported by the Park Board and VPD, can be the facilitators of change in helping collect data to better understand how we can assist in these matters. An extended Park Ranger program, in which Rangers are provided adequate training, can help facilitate in these critical areas.”

Camil Dumont (Green Party): “Our parks are often the front line for social issues. We must exercise compassion and be committed to acting on what research is available. PB will not solve social issues alone but there is an important role for it to play in collaboration with other levels of government and community organizations. Collaboration, open-mindedness and again, compassion should be guiding tenets. I want to live in a community that supports its most vulnerable and works hard to ensure that no one is left behind. Park Board Commissioners have to ensure this is our baseline.”

Ray En-Jui Chang (Coalition Vancouver): “We believe in strong community centres which are important community hubs that encourage activity, interaction and mental health. This can go a long way to addressing these issues. We will additionally be increasing the sanitation departments of the Parks Board as we seek to make our parks cleaner and safer for everyone. This increased activity will increase the likelihood anyone using our parks for purposes outside their intended purpose are in contact with authorities – and can then get the help they need.”

Winnie Siu (Coalition Vancouver): “We believe in strong community centres which are important community hubs that encourage activity, interaction and mental health. This can go a long way to addressing these issues. We will additionally be increasing the sanitation departments of the Parks Board as we seek to make our parks cleaner and safer for everyone. This increased activity will increase the likelihood anyone using our parks for purposes outside their intended purpose are in contact with authorities – and can then get the help they need.” [Duplicates answer from Ray En-Jui Chang]


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