New residency association Downtown Eastside United forms to combat gentrification

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      More than 70 people filled Dodson House at the corner of East Hastings and Carrall for the founding of Downtown Eastside United on Saturday (April 5).

      The new residency association was described by steering committee members as a direct response to gentrification and an ever-shrinking supply of affordable housing in the neighbourhood.

      “We’re calling this Downtown Eastside United group together, in order, not to beg for anything, but to reinvigorate a fight,” said Ivan Drury, a long-time community activist. “It’s time to stand up.”

      He called for a shift in how low-income people are interacting with the city on issues of development in the Downtown Eastside.

      “We have to think about what it means to unite people in social housing with people in SROs with workers who are here on temporary migrant visas,” Drury said in one of several speeches that opened the meeting. “We need to think about how we can fight back in ways that isn’t just begging and asking to negotiate, but demanding what we need and taking what we need.”

      The group’s steering committee is largely composed of former members of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC). In January, that group’s leadership split over disagreements about the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan (LAP), and the extent to which DNC members are cooperating with city hall.

      The LAP was approved by Vancouver city council on March 15. Related bylaw amendments pertaining to social housing and zoning in the Oppenheimer District are scheduled to go before council on April 15.

      A plan to guide development for the next 30 years, the LAP has received criticism from activists and housing advocates, who argue it does not go far enough to preserve the character of the Downtown Eastside as a home for low-income people.

      In addition to Drury, former DNC members in attendance at the Downtown Eastside United meeting included Tami Starlight and Wendy Pederson. Other well-known faces from the neighbourhood included Jean SwansonSid Tan, Herb Varley, and Elwin Xie.

      Starlight acknowledged conflicts within the community and emphasized a need to focus on the future.

      “We don’t want to dwell on the past and on all the infighting and on the people who were willing to sell out and take crumbs and silence our community,” she said. “We really felt that we needed this meeting, especially we, the excluded five from the DNC. We’ve basically been high-jacked and excluded from a so-called democratic process….So we need to do something different.”

      The meeting was convened to answer one question, Pederson explained in her opening remarks.

      “What is the main issue that can unite the community?”, she asked. “How do we unite all of the people who are most-affected by poverty?”

      Responses included affordable housing, “renovictions” and gentrification, and systemic racism against aboriginal people and low-income earners.

      Several attendees voiced strong support for the Portland Hotel Society and for members of its leadership who recently resigned in response to allegations of financial mismanagement.

      Speakers described an audit performed at the request of B.C. Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health as part of a coordinated attack on the low-income community in the Downtown Eastside. “I see our heart being ripped out from us,” one said.

      Bud Osborn, a founding member of Insite, which is operated by the Portland Hotel Society, wasn’t in attendance but sent a note that was read out loud.

      "This is going to be the last fight for the Downtown Eastside," that message read. "The developers are not stopping."

      Downtown Eastside United is scheduled to hold its second monthly gathering at Dodson House on May 3. In the meantime, the steering committee will be holding weekly meetings at the Carnegie Centre on Thursday evenings.

      Comments

      25 Comments

      lance

      Apr 7, 2014 at 12:02pm

      "Gentrification"....People with jobs moving in?

      anonymous

      Apr 7, 2014 at 12:02pm

      Here we go again. It's the same jokers that picketed innocent business owners who are just trying to make a living. Wendy and her band of merry idiots are now on another failed attempt to gain support.

      I want to support them, but all they do is make enemies and burn bridges. just give up with this whole gentrification thing. Do you believe there is a conspiracy behind it? - NO. it's call living in a major metropolitan city. Things evolve and so should you.

      Focus on helping people, not punishing honest folks who work their asses off to have some kind of normal life. There are areas and places on the down town east side that are so incredibly crappy and gross that anything is an improvement. Any any business or individual who wants to move there and conduct business, should not be punished they should be rewarded.

      Please don't picket anyone this time and try to make us feel your pain, not BE the pain.

      bobo

      Apr 7, 2014 at 12:34pm

      Wendy Pederson asks "What is the main issue that can unite the community?" I would say that issues is getting rid of the rampant drug use in the community. I'm not talking about a total abstinance based community - that is too much to ask. What I'm talking about is the coddling and excusing for hard core users and the open air drug market that even the police admit exists. Just because the community is low income doesn't mean the residents have to suffer because of the selfish hard core drug users and their supporters. I'm speaking specifically about organizations like VANDU. How is anything they do helping the community????? This will allow the residents to live in peace and will let other Vancouver residents feel like their support and money isn't being flushed down the drain. You can't expect a peaceful life to co-exist with hard core drug users and the crime that follows. Wake Up!!!

      Matthew

      Apr 7, 2014 at 12:46pm

      Fighting to keep their own area a slum. . . you could not invent this stuff.

      devoego

      Apr 7, 2014 at 12:52pm

      Ah yes...lets preserve the "character" of the DTES. What character are we talking about? The character where i can walk around and hear the call of the street vendors selling Morphine, percocet, etc...yes, what charm. Why not just give and give and give your tax money away to those who will take take take. Stand up and fight my ass! What are you fighting about? living off of the avails of others. Truly there is a better way to deal with the topic of the mentally ill and downtrodden. Economics is a beast..do you think all this construction is taking place if there was even a remote possibility of it not going through? Wake up zombies!

      Kevin

      Apr 7, 2014 at 12:55pm

      This is mind-numbing stupidity.
      Stopping gentrification in a major city results in a slow slide into squalor like Detroit.
      Is that what they prefer?

      JStarr

      Apr 7, 2014 at 2:48pm

      I live in a DTES condo. Come at me bro.

      I'm pretty sure that my elderly neighbors vastly prefer us to a variety of other possible tenants. I don't think anyone gets older and thinks "wow, I'd like to live next to a crack dealer" or "I can't wait for another storefront to close permanently so streets become pretty much abandoned if it cannot be the store that has been there forever than I would prefer nothing".

      Those of us who choose to move there are attracted to the features this coalition claims to be protecting by having us not move there. Our interests are actually pretty well aligned with those of many residents already there, dare I say the silent majority.

      The biggest mistake poverty activists are making right now is coalitions like this. They lump a variety of very loosely issues together and get nothing done (Check out that poster. No pipelines? Were there going to be pipelines in the DTES taking away low income housing? Is my condo going to become a pipeline? So confused!). It would be easy for a resident like me to get behind a local politician proposing reasonable rent control/reduction strategies and targeted support for vulnerable populations, but if you think I'm going to ever align with groups who champion the former PHS executive -- nope. It will be a loss if nothing is done to protect the vulnerable members of this community, I have zero interest in living in Yaletown II, but this is not the way to do it.

      Sid Tan

      Apr 7, 2014 at 2:53pm

      The issue is securing the needs, assets and tenure of low income residents, pensioners and working poor. My world class city includes the poor. Much enthusiasm and a cheer from the DTES United inaugural meeting...
      http://youtu.be/8ZBWsBageSI

      Nathan Crompton

      Apr 7, 2014 at 2:54pm

      I'm really glad I made it out to this inspiring first step for DTES United.

      The wisdom, diversity and spirit of self-empowerment in the room was historic. I think this is the beginning of the end of the (recent) DTES strategy of going behind closed doors and politely asking the our government for microscopic handouts.

      People without property, money and privilege have drawn a line and are uniting for their basic right to housing and self-determination – and it's going to be something to watch and support for everyone struggling across Vancouver.

      A. M. Haaretz

      Apr 7, 2014 at 3:58pm

      "Build it and they will come!" DON'T BUILD IT, AND THEY WON'T COME! All this so called "gentrification" is about 'mining' and 'logging' The People's Green Space--their sunlight, their blue sky, their breathing space, their last bit of grass and parking. For what? So some millionaires can Leverage Their Greed. That is what 'densification' is about--leveraging the investment in a property, to maximize the R.O.I.
      "Wendy Pederson for Council." Charlie Smith for Campaign Manager. Bless Georgia Straight, for giving the people a voice. Kudos to all!