The fight to sleep in peace
January 6, 2005
Tonight across British Columbia thousands of people are forced to live and die on the streets. Tonight the Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA) has taken a small step in fighting to end homelessness and give people the right to sleep in peace. Here in the DTES the common space of DERA's Tellie Tower has been made into an emergency shelter and is being run by the people who have been turned away from the dozen of other funded shelters that are full.
As a volunteer from the APC who has had experience organizing within squats and tent cites I am participating in what could be the first peer-run shelter. By using the model of harm reduction the people who rely on the service of the shelter are given the power to run the shelter in the way that is best. We are doing this with the understanding that decent affordable housing is the objective of our struggle.
We hope to soon see this model being used in shelters through out the DTES. Much like drug users distributing clean needles and running safe injection sites, homeless persons running shelters will prove to be the most effective and empowering way to educate and defend one another.
Although this is a relatively small space it is a safe space. It has been laid out by people who are familiar with how illness spreads in other shelters. (Many shelters in the DTES are considered incubators of sicknesses such as T.B and Hep-C) This space lacks the authoritarianism and religious missionary feel of the other shelters that are funded by the government. Unlike those shelters this space excepts all people and does not turn poor people away if they are not receiving income assistance (most shelters refuse people who are denied welfare because the Ministry of Human Resources pays the shelter for every “client” they take in) What this space does have is dignity and solidarity.
Lately the municipal government COPE has been forced to face the growing homeless disaster spreading across the city. Councilors and their supporters have been quick to pass the buck and explain that their hands are tied. Even some leftist have echoed these claims. Without resorting to name calling I'll make a few points to spell out COPE's involvement in the worsening conditions on the streets.
During the last round of 'political tent-cities' COPE dominated council passed By-law No. 8735. This law essentially out laws the use of city space and property by homeless people. The fine for setting up a shelter or sleeping in a doorway is up to $2000. By criminalizing poor people for sleeping in city gutters it is hard to pretend that Jim Green and Loryn Mayncourt are not serving the same interests.
Since Larry Campbell has taken power as Chair of the Police Board, police violence has escalated. By deploying 50 more cops into the DTES contact between the homeless population and heath services where severed. The jails filled up with the homeless, as if by warehousing them behind bars was making up for the lack of shelter space. Still there has been no justice for Frank Paul who was murdered by the VPD and just last week a homeless man was shot dead after being harassed by two rookie cops. COPE and their progressive supporters have done nothing to deter these murderous thugs and continue to applaud their ongoing campaign of violence and harassment.
The city of Vancouver owns more vacant property then any other slum lord in town. While they plead that there not responsible for homeless people the doorways of buildings they own are the only shelter some people have. If COPE had a shred of compassion they would open those doors so that people did not sleep with the rats in the rain.
Olympic gentrification has begun and COPE is behind the breaking ball. While allowing condos to be built almost on top of one another they sign the demolition permits for hotels.
There are too many more crimes committed by COPE to continue on. The point is electing COPE is not good enough, neither is the NDP. The solutions to end homelessness will come from a movement for social justice that is led by the people not the poverty pimps. By supporting DERA's shelter we are supporting the people taking power for themselves. It is solidarity with their struggles of survival that will strengthen our fighting spirit and mobilize a movement that will win real justice and dignity.
Vancouver Courier article ==>
Woodward's For The People!
This Tuesday, September 28th City staff will make their final presentation to City Council regarding the development of Woodward’s. The entire process - from the sell-out of the squatters to the make-believe ‘community consultations’ - has been a sham. The City has made no effort in response to the crisis facing poor people in the Downtown Eastside or across Vancouver.
In all the bids made by large corporations, the Woodward’s squatters have been all but abandoned. The catastrophe of homelessness booms with each wave of welfare cut-offs. People forced to live on the street can’t even lie on the sidewalks or ask for change. It is in this climate of extreme poverty and dire need that COPE claims to champion the people by offering to accept up to 100 units of social housing in a building that could accommodate far more.
In this city, where 25% of the population qualifies for social housing, 100 units of social housing is not good enough. Where there are 130 000 people currently at risk of homelessness the three proposals being entertained are not good enough. Where over a thousand people sleep with no shelter whatsoever every night, COPE is not good enough!
We demand every unit in the Woodward’s building become social housing!
This is not a new proposal. The APC has been standing behind the demand made at the Woodward’s squat 2 years ago. We demanded that the provincial Liberals end the moratorium on money invested into housing and develop Woodward’s as an emergency project to begin alleviating the sufferings of the DTES immediately!
Having promised Woodward’s to the people on whose backs they were elected, COPE has now turned it’s back on the interests of the people and is handing the building over to developers. Even some of the unions who supported the squat now endorse a proposal that would see no subsidized units on the Woodward’s site and that would have the construction done by welfare recipients forced into workfare.
The Anti-Poverty Committee will be taking a school bus full of former squatters up to City Hall to demand what is theirs: Woodward’s, all of it, NOW!
Please meet us at the front steps (south facing side) of City Hall on Tuesday September 28th at 2pm sharp. We will echo the demands of the squat loud and clear - Woodward’s for the people!
Police, City Take Down Tent City
On April 1st, homeless people and their supporters marched on a piece of vacant and under-used city property to create a tent city. We did this to help house the city's ballooning homeless population and to draw attention to the need for housing for all! After a tense standoff with over 100 police officers and after the arrest of two of our allies we succeeded in finally taking the land. Our tents and shelter had already been taken down by City workers. People still want to occupy the land and demand that the city put aside ONE green space in this city for homeless people to live in.
By taking down the tents, by blocking people from using parks and other green space, and by arresting people, the city is de facto taking the position that it is better for the homeless to sleep in alleys and in doorways than in the comparative safety of green open space. Homeless people deserve better. Please call city hall and let them know that. Call Mayor Larry Campbell's office at 604-873-7621 or email him and the rest of city council at email@example.com.
On Saturday, April 3rd we will be meeting at Victory Square at noon to march to the Vancouver Public Library where COPE is holding their Annual General Meeting.
1. The city give us the greenspace for a tent city.
2. They restore city funding to the Vancouver Status of Women.
CBC - No More Tent Cities, say Police
CKNW - Anti-Government Stand-off in Vancouver Now Over
- Police Use Old Lessons to Deal With Would-be Squat
- Downtown Eastside advocate on Vancouver Council supports VPD anti-squat initatives
Crown Council serves and protects VPD
November 16, 2004
The Crown has intervened and stayed the charges that where being pressed by myself against an officer of the Vancouver police Department. Constable Wade Rodrique, a known thug within the DTES, has been given a ‘stay out of jail for free’ by Crown Council in a case where the VPD faced a serious of
charges ranging from obstruction of justice to aggravated assault.
Crown Council informed me that “The statements provided by others including police members present are not consistent with the description given by Mr. Cunningham (myself).” What is consistent is the role of Crown Counsel to serve and protect the VPD.
A private prosecution was used as a strategy to by-pass the inherent bias that is shared between Crown Council and the police. We succeed in getting a judge to approve six criminal charges against Rodrique. Up until that point Crown had not involved them selves, most likely they where not ready to take on the PIVOT Legal Society as we had caught them with their guard down. The Crown was finally sent in upon the orders of the Attorney General to crush the case.
I am a member of the Anti-Poverty Committee and never believed that justice would be found through our legal system. Our effort was meant to take this cop off the street. He has since been relocated outside the DTES.
The Anti-Poverty Committee is determined to continue with the legal strategy of private prosecution. We see an opportunity to exploit the legal system along this route. We do not believe there is any reason to pursue police complaints. With PIVOT we played the game and lost. The APC realizes Crown and the entire court system are vulnerable to pressure. We understand that as poor people our only power is disruption. We will make sure that our power is felt in their courtrooms and on our streets.