Vancouver’s first sanctioned homeless camp, a temporary tent encampment at Living Hope Church, will remain open through the end of July.
The camp opened in May to provide additional shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic and help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
According to a recently amended contract with the church, the encampment’s cost rose to $66,735, which is paid for by Community Development Block Grant coronavirus response funds, a part of the CARES Act. The city of Vancouver pays for site staff, administration, trash service, port-a-potties, water and electricity tied to use of the south parking lot at 2711 N.E. Andresen Road in central Vancouver.
There is a hand-washing station, and a shower trailer owned by Food with Friends is available four days weekly. The church provides some snack foods at night and quick breakfast items in the morning. The overnight shelter opens around 7 p.m.; people have to leave by 7 a.m.
The site averages 25 to 27 campers nightly — a group pastor Brian Norris describes as a community.
“It’s a success in our eyes,” he said.
The tents are spaced to provide social distancing and are disinfected when a new person arrives. So far, the church has hosted 133 people experiencing homelessness. Some people have left to move into an Oxford House or pursued another form of recovery, Norris said.
He said the group is cleaning beyond the church’s property to counter the stereotype that homeless camps are dirty or attract trash. In a couple of weeks, the church will re-evaluate the campsite and determine next steps.
Other community groups are helping out by providing meals. The Sikh community, for instance, is offering lunch every Sunday through the end of July through Living Hope’s Live Love Center. For years, the center has operated a food pantry, clothing closet and low-barrier severe weather shelter, and offered meals and showers to the homeless community.