Hunger striker “Homeless Dave” brings Downtown Eastside demands to Vancouver City Hall

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      A Downtown Eastside resident who calls himself Homeless Dave delivered his demands to Vancouver City Hall today (April 4), as he marked the 14th day of a hunger strike aimed at bringing attention to calls for social housing in the low-income neighbourhood.

      Surrounded by a group of supporters including Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Homeless Dave was pushed in a wheelchair from the Downtown Eastside to 12th Avenue and Cambie Street this morning to bring a letter for the Vancouver mayor.

      “I’m here to deliver three demands to Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision government,” he told reporters before sliding the letter under the door of the mayor’s office.

      The formerly homeless activist wants to see the city turn the Sequel 138 condo site and the former police station, both located near the intersection of Main and Hastings streets, into social housing, and is calling for the city to declare the Downtown Eastside a “social justice zone”.

      “There’s tremendous stress in our community, and that’s the reason why I’m here today, is because it really is an act of desperation, and no level of government has listened to us, starting with the local government,” he asserted. “We’ve seen this through the local area planning process with the city, and they have not been listening to us and they have been approving condos while this process has been going on.”

      The hunger striker described the city's plans to use the former police station as a digital incubation centre as "very insulting". The City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Economic Commission launched a request for expressions of interest in January for a party to deliver incubation services for early-stage technology and social innovation companies at the site.

      “Imagine that—they’re subsidizing corporations there, but they won’t build what is due to us, our social housing,” he said.

      Single mother Lorelei Williams spoke in support of the demonstrator’s demands, noting she struggled to find permanent housing for eight years.

      “A lot of the women in the Downtown Eastside deal with violence, so there’s a vicious cycle,” she said. “If they want to leave their violent relationships, they have nowhere to go, and some women actually end up going with men just to have a home. Things like that happen because there’s no social housing. It’s a huge crisis, and we need to deal with it.”

      Wendy Pedersen, a long-time activist in the Downtown Eastside, said many community members have been through “the whole gamut of speaking to the city about this”.

      “For the last 10 years, we’ve gone to meetings, we’ve published research, we’ve participated in their planning processes, we’ve done everything,” she said. “And we’ve had tent cities, we’ve had demonstrations calling for more housing and trying to stop gentrification and displacement from the Downtown Eastside. But still, gentrification is happening at light speed.”

      City manager Penny Ballem said the mayor is currently away, and spoke to the group on behalf of city staff working on the local area plan for the Downtown Eastside.

      “I think the issues that Dave has raised, and that many of you have talked about over the last few weeks in this campaign, are obviously a major focus of discussion, and the solutions are not easy, and it involves all levels of government,” she said. “The city is working very hard to leverage all the opportunities that we can to improve housing for low-income people, to renovate and rehabilitate housing, and there’s a lot of work still to be done.”

      Green councillor Adriane Carr said today’s demonstration at city hall points to “how frustrated” the advocates are. She argued that now is a “perfect time” in the lead-up to the provincial election in May to ask the political parties what their plans are for social housing.

      “We have land in some cases, we have an ability to certainly influence the form of development and promote social housing, but without senior government help, we just simply can’t build it ourselves,” she said following the demonstration at city hall. “That’s critical right now, and I think that’s the short-term very important process that we should engage ourselves in, all of us as councillors.”

      After being weighed, Homeless Dave told reporters he has lost 14 pounds during his two-week hunger strike. The demonstrator has Type 2 diabetes, and has been drinking 325 ml of Happy Planet juice, a company cofounded by Mayor Robertson, each day.

      “I’m prepared to go as long as this takes—that means 40, 50, 60 days,” he said.

      The demonstrator is holding two daily pickets during his hunger strike, at 138 East Hastings Street from noon to 1 p.m., and outside the former Vancouver police station at 312 Main Street from 1 to 2 p.m. His supporters say they plan to stage further actions in the community.

      Comments

      20 Comments

      Larryflls

      Apr 4, 2013 at 6:23pm

      There will always be frustration when dealing with poverty. The real question is once the issue is acknowledged what constructive ways can we all help each other, improve ourselves and help build a better community through creativity rather than do nothing but protest?

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      Bradley

      Apr 4, 2013 at 6:41pm

      #pray4dave

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      I Demand!

      Apr 4, 2013 at 6:47pm

      I Demand housing on prime real-estate for which I have not worked for. I could live in a less costly area, but I DEMAND it be to live in a new development next to someone that payed $1 million for their unit. I also DEMAND food, and when you have given me that ill DEMAND a car.

      LOL. It wont matter if our city gives low income housing, because they will simply ask fr more and more and more. Why cant they demand more of themselves? There are lots of jobs, and plenty of inexpensive places to live outside of the most desired city in the world.

      I DEMAND some logic. I DEMAND some personal accountability.

      I say take care of the disabled 100%, and the hell with all the rest that refuse to work, contribute and choose to bitch and protest all day.

      I came from nothing, and when I decided I wanted something I worked hard to get an education, and worked even harder to find and keep a job. Its possible if you choose to work rather than beg.

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      Jim

      Apr 4, 2013 at 7:42pm

      Vision Vancouver is more concerned with lining their pockets with money from the Vancouver elite than they are with building social housing. You can't do both and they've clearly chosen where their interests lie.

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      Mr. Freehouse

      Apr 4, 2013 at 8:28pm

      “Imagine that—they’re subsidizing corporations there, but they won’t build what is due to us, our social housing,”

      I agree. I'm going to quit my job and ask the government to build me a house because I choose to starve myself instead of working. I don't want private money to build it so I will protest their bad private developments, but I will still take their hard earned tax money they pay to the government, and use my drugs in a safe ejection site that private tax paying citizens funded. I really want to live in the most expensive and progressive cities in the world and demand free shit instead of relocating. I want the tax payers to pay for my ghetto via government instead of getting it directly from private developers. Although I don't have a home, I'll call the streets my home and anyone who comes near it I'll disrupt anything proactive they try to do.

      Warmest Regards,

      DTES

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      Meathead

      Apr 4, 2013 at 10:48pm

      I'm getting real sick up and fed of all these occupy types, idle no morons and poverty pimps. Here's the thing: They expect the government (aka Joe tax payer) to give into their demands without taking any responsibility for themselves. They then further refuse to acknowledge any progress that has been made or brush off any good intentions as not being good enough. Finally, when confronted with these facts we get no meaningful reply and usually accusations of racism or even worse. They want change... so long as it remains the status quo.

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      SouthVancouver

      Apr 4, 2013 at 11:50pm

      Homeless Dave, I'm afraid the best you can hope for is Vision Vancouver continuing to spin how much they are helping the homeless while they are of course instead frenetically rezoning the city to let their "development partners" continue to build characterless luxury condo towers for overseas investors. Of course the option exists of kicking that pack of arrogant developer greenwashers out in the next election, and that's a very good option indeed.

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      Calling it like it is

      Apr 5, 2013 at 7:48am

      So let me get this straight. They want the government to give them housing, food etc. The tax payer funds the government, yet they are against corporations and development?

      Breaking news: If there were no corporations and people working i.e. owners of Pidgeon. There would be no money in the government for you to beg for.

      No wonder people wont hire you. You're fucking stupid.

      I for one want to look at the bigger picture and feel my city should expand to accommodate those that want to work and contribute to society. If it pushes out people that choose to abuse themselves and/or not move towards productivity then so be it. They can move to places less desirable and more affordable. The DTES has the potential be be a beautiful area with its proximity to the downtown core, view of the mountains and ocean etc etc. It should be available to those that work first, and those that beg should get ousted.

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      West Coaster

      Apr 5, 2013 at 9:08am

      A manager at a fast food restaurant in a community just outside the lower mainland was complaining the only local people that apply have no teeth. Some of the people working there were hired on the immigrant worker program.
      Many of the people are beyond hope, you have to look at some of these people and ask yourself if you would hire them.
      We need social workers to give many of these people into programs to deal with their issues, and give them a hand up so to speak and strongly "encourage" the employable people into programs to integrate them into the workforce.
      But most importantly to break the poverty cycle in the first place and make sure children and parents are getting the help they need to deal with their issues.
      Unfortunatly the savings in health care, policing and welfare won't be realized for 20 years or so.
      We only elect people to deal with budgets 5 years at most.

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      Jiff

      Apr 5, 2013 at 10:41am

      I'm perplexed by this relatively new outlook, expressed here and in other articles' comments sections regarding the DTES, renovictions, etc., that boils down to - don't like it? Then get the fuck out.

      Aren't cities supposed to be livable? What the numerous poverty-bashers are basically saying is - Vancouver is world class and desirable. You can't live here. You can't afford it. We don't want you.

      But what happens when - as it already is now - the middle class inhabitants start feeling the squeeze? Aren't you basically cheerleading Vancouver's destiny as an city/resort for wealthy people and wealthy tourists? I've lived here most of my (affordable) forty-five years here and the best you can do is say, "go live somewhere else?"

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