Four Downtown Eastside groups issued a challenge to provincial leadership candidates today to include social housing in their platforms.
Representatives of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC), the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP), the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and Walk4Justice said they want to see Liberal and NDP leadership candidates commit to funding social housing at 10 sites around the low-income Vancouver neighbourhood.
“We challenge you to do something about the Downtown Eastside and poverty and homelessness, not just to talk about it,” said Ivan Drury, a board member of the DNC, at a press conference in front of the empty Pantages Theatre building on East Hastings Street today (February 15).
“We challenge you to recognize the value of the low-income Downtown Eastside community and to make efforts to protect it, like by funding social housing.”
The DNC, CCAP and other groups have an ongoing campaign calling for the construction of 1,000 units of resident-controlled social housing at 10 sites around the Downtown Eastside. The sites include the Pantages Theatre, 58 West Hastings Street and the empty Stadium Hotel.
The groups estimate it would cost about $200 million to construct new units at the 10 sites, which they suggested should be funded through the provincial housing endowment fund.
CCAP organizer Wendy Pedersen said the 1,000 social housing units would make “a huge dent in the homelessness problem.”
“There’s over 10,000 low-income people living in this neighbourhood, and over half are living in the worst housing in Canada,” she said.
Paul Martin, a representative of VANDU and a resident in a Downtown Eastside SRO, said his building hasn’t had a working elevator for nine months.
“We need the housing simply because it gives people back a sense of dignity,” said Martin. “Living in a room with a sink and a bed is not ending homelessness - nowhere close to it.”
Gladys Radek, a co-founder of the Walk4Justice cross-country march for missing and murdered women, echoed the call for leadership candidates to support social housing.
Radek said women in the community are often forced to live on the street or to put their children in care after leaving violent situations in their home.
“There’s a serious lack of affordable housing for these women and their children, which is why so many women are falling into the cracks of the system,” said Radek.