by: Meaghan Thumath, Vision Vancouver Board of Directors

During this unusually harsh winter, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board partnered to ensure that none of our citizens have to sleep outside in the freezing cold.

Shelters fill up quickly during the winter, so community centres in the West End, East Side, and Olympic Village opened their doors for people to escape the freezing temperatures.

Yesterday, the NPA park board commissioners called an emergency meeting of the Park Board. The only agenda item they wanted to discuss? Immediately closing the doors to the warming centres.

Yes, temporary shelters are not a solution for people who need permanent housing. We’re so grateful to the staff and volunteers working hard to deal with any issues that have arisen at warming shelters, particularly at Creekside. We need more affordable housing, and we need partners at other levels of government to step up to help tackle homelessness in our city. This is, and always has been, a major priority for our entire team.

But to shut people out in the cold?

That’s not the Vancouver I know.

Thankfully, Vancouverites stood up for our values last night. Thank you to community organizations, housing advocates, and all those who took the time to share their thoughts and defend these values. It was a strong showing of solidarity with our city’s most vulnerable.

Thank you also to the Green Party Park Commissioners, and to Independent Park Commissioner Erin Shum for voting against this mean-spirited motion, which thankfully failed to pass. In a city of such wealth, it’s important to remind ourselves that we all benefit by showing compassion towards all of our fellow citizens. We can have world-class facilities and also welcome people in from the cold.

Public spaces are for everyone. Vancouver is for everyone.

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