Downtown Eastside groups issue challenge to B.C. leadership candidates

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      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.



      Neil Edmondson

      Feb 15, 2011 at 4:12pm

      There is plenty of low cost housing in DTES already and social housing is not good value for the dollar: spending millions on a relative handful of units does little to solve the problem and creates a host of new problems. Yes, the existing housing may be of poor quality but there are limits to what taxpayers and the government can and should do for crackheads and junkies.

      If the so-called social justice advocates really cared about DTES residents they'd be moving heaven and Earth to get them off drugs rather than normalizing and condoning hard drug use as they are currently doing. Worse, these so-called advocates actually do the opposite of help DTES residents; they increase hostility towards the homeless and marginalized through their never ending demands on the public purse. From soup kitchens to social workers to shelters to food banks, BCers already do a lot for the marginalized and poor and its insulting not to recognize that.

      Second Nation

      Feb 15, 2011 at 4:37pm

      Ho hum. Social "activists" demand more of your tax dollars.

      Why is it we call them "activists" when they're the laziest people in our society?

      Rose Aroo

      Feb 15, 2011 at 5:22pm

      Vancouver's Downtown East Side is more politically organized and aware than most middle-class neighbourhoods. The idea that there is enough social housing is a lie. Condo buildings are encroaching on the land that we should be building social housing. Vancouver won the Olympic based in part on the promise to build a social housing legacy. So far, we've seen a lot of lying and backpeddling from our politicians. The DTES activists are simply calling on governments to honour their promises of social housing instead of just lying to the public all the time. More power to the DNC, CCAP, VANDU, and the Walk4Justice! keep fighting for your right to social housing!

      Sven Crawson

      Feb 15, 2011 at 6:34pm

      Millions and millions of dollars per year are already poured into the DTES. Yet it continues to get worse and worse each year. Why? Because of the out-of-control drug problem and the fact that much of the housing there is rundown because landlords have absolutely no financial incentive to maintain their buildings.

      As a result, much of the DTES has been turned into a slum. No businesses want to open there and not one single developer wants to build anything there. Adding 100% social housing will only make the problem worse, not better. This area needs a massive amount of new development with mixed-use housing as is being done successfully elsewhere in the city.

      But many of these same activists calling for more housing start screaming bloody hell if anyone even thinks of putting a condo building there, even if it contains social housing. People like Wendy Pederson consider the Woodwards development a huge failure, despite the fact that it now provides hundreds of people housing who once had none, lots of community amenities, and is helping to revitalize the area and provide local jobs.

      What these activists are demanding is unrealistic and would be too costly to taxpayers. As a result, the DTES will simply continue to fester and get worse and worse, no matter how much tax money is poured into the various shelters, soup kitchens, needle exchanges, etc.

      Lani Russwurm

      Feb 15, 2011 at 6:36pm

      A large homeless population like the one in Vancouver sucks up far, far more tax dollars in extra criminal justice and healthcare costs than it would for the government to simply build and fund enough social housing to eliminate the problem. Sadly, politicians on both the right and left won't decisively attack the issue because they are too cowed by voters who believe marginalized people created or have the power to change circumstances that are well beyond their control. Having stable housing is the first step to getting healthy, stabilizing mental illness, staying out of the criminal justice system, kicking dope, going back to school, landing a job, etc.

      Sven Crawson

      Feb 16, 2011 at 12:48am

      Sorry, but, housing does not guarantee people will get off drugs or stop being mentally ill or stay away from crime.

      Feb 16, 2011 at 5:06am

      I wrote this two years ago and it's just as relevant today as it was then

      OH YEAH

      In Vancouver alone there's a few of us who like to hang out in the dtes, the ten shelters that are available are not quite enough. The advocates who speak on our behalf are pushing for homes houses etc. Me personally i would be happy to have a new place to rest my head after a long day pursuing my addiction, hopefully there will be soup lines and handout's close by because i will have no money to take care of myself. As a person who takes full advantage of addiction support services which are every three feet in the dtes i have no other goal or motive in my life but to get high and stay high. I'm used to handout's except from the dealers, they are brutal they only want the money I obtain by begging borrowing or stealing with the exception of welfare day, when the taxpayers pay the bill. What a great country why would i even hink of turning my life around when everybody will give me anything i want except what i really need, which is a swift kick in the ass and a life free of addiction .That's me homeless and addicted and living and loving your support keep it coming or Judy Graves will make a movie about me and girlfriend Wendy from the Carnegie will start a protest march, they seem to think they represent me when in reality they represent the drug dealers.

      Lani Russwurm

      Feb 16, 2011 at 8:43am

      Sven, google "costs of homelessness." Numerous studies conclude that it costs the public far more to deal with homelessness than it would to provide adequate housing and supports. No, there are no guarantees, but we do know the number of ambulance calls, police interactions, and so on are fewer for someone with a stable home. By default, jail becomes an alternative form of housing (or "three squares and a roof" as some street people call it), and that's really expensive.

      And what do you mean, no developer wants to invest in the DTES? Why do you think we're even having this conversation?


      Feb 16, 2011 at 9:05am

      Hey Canada Vancouver calling
      Send us your homeless addicted and challenged there’s more room at this inn. For one day of the month Vancouver’s shelters are empty “Welfare Day”, the taxpayers really do give back @ this time. The ATMS have been spitting out Fifty’s since midnight yesterday’s political issue’s have been put on hold, the Neo Non Prof’s and their subjects are to “FREAKIN” busy getting high. These groups have stated that addiction has nothing to do with being homeless they said, even if you spend your rent money on drugs you’re are still entitled to shelter. They believe that marginalized people have a free pass @ our expense, and that no accountability is a god given right. How dare you if I spend my money on lottery ticket’s taxi’s drugs booze etc. that you will not “GIMME SHELTER”. By the end of today “FIFTY PEOPLE WILL BE HOMELESS” because they spent money on the items above, ten new people will arrive on our doorstep for “EASTVAN’S orientation from some part of the country. These “NON PROFS” “PIMPOUT” Vancouver’s Homeless for personal political gain. On another note as I drove by the “CARNEGIE” this morn there was five dealers standing @ there post’s keeping very busy hopefully they will have enough time in the day to hit “WESTERN UNION” as well as putting down a deposit on a new condo.


      Ray I

      Feb 16, 2011 at 11:09am

      I agree with housing but not in the DTES. The only way to stop the addiction and cycle of crime that surrounds it is to move this population away from what is a Disneyland for addicts run by organized crime. Does anyone (except those "support groups" that leech off the addicts and mentally disabled) honestly think that providing a comfortable place to be an addict is going to get people into rehab? Are you kidding me? It will only serve to increase the problem, not abate it.