Questions are being asked about the response to a homeless couple who set up their tent on a Vancouver sidewalk.
Vanessa Hegstrom and Dante Alexander, who have been experiencing homelessness for more than a year, say they set up outside a 32-storey building in Yaletown on Saturday night.
They say they were woken up around 6:30 a.m. by police and a city sanitation crew who demanded that they move.
As it turned out, the pair had pitched their tent in front of the building where Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart lives.
The couple said they had never experienced such a fast and firm response when they had camped anywhere else in the city.
“Why is it this building, out of any building in the city, so important that it involves so many police, so many city workers?” she asked.
Stewart was not made available for an interview, but a spokesperson denied the mayor had any involvement in the swift removal.
Manny Singh Jasdhol of Collective Market, a grocery store in the West End, said it normally takes the City four days or a week to respond to complaints about sidewalk camps.
In an email, the City said Saturday’s incident was brought to the attention of city leadership because the mayor’s personal information had been inadvertently released to the public through social media.
The City also said its staff was told the campers had been paid to set up in that location, a claim the campers deny.
“I would show you 100 bucks if I had it,” Hegstrom said. “I have maybe 25 cents to my name right now.”
The couple, originally from Fort St. John, B.C., said they set up on the sidewalk because there were rowdy partiers across the street in the park.
“So where in the city is (it) OK and there’s never an answer,” Hegstrom said. “There are no housing solutions, there are no programs.”
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