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Homeless in the snow: Tent community growing in Vancouver park amid cold snap

The Shanahan family came to Vancouver last month on a promise of work, but a long train ride and $10,000 later, they’re living in a tent in the midst of an extended blast of winter weather.

The jobs the Shanahans expected to find in B.C. turned out to be a scam, so they’ve spent two weeks camping out in Oppenheimer Park while they try to find work and housing.

“[It’s been] humbling, but very difficult too, at that. The weather, we’re used to it being from Ontario, but just watching the other people, it’s starting to break my heart,” Andrew Shanahan said.

The Shanahans are part of a growing homeless community camping out in the Downtown Eastside park as the city is blanketed in snow and temperatures remain below freezing through the night.

According to the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP), the number of people camping in the park has jumped from about 30 to 50 since the snow started falling. The group has been tracking the numbers on a daily basis since the end of January.

Fiona York, a CCAP co-ordinator, would like to see the municipal government provide more support for people sleeping outside, including an on-site warming tent.

“We’re concerned with what people were experiencing and what we might see coming with the colder weather,” she said.

In a written statement, the city said it has outreach teams working every day to try to move people indoors. Vancouver also offers temporary shelters with about 300 beds, but those have been full every night since November.

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