Archive

Tag Archives: Downtown Eastside

Vancouver City Council voted yesterday to rezone land along East Hastings St. for condo development, a decision that community activists are speaking against.

The site is located at 955 East Hastings street. The Wall Financial Corporation has proposed a 12-storey mixed-use project for the site.

“It provides desperately needed social housing, below market rental, light industrial, retail which, thanks to the motion today, could include a much needed grocery,” said Vancouver City Councillor Andrea Reimer via email.

The site was zoned as M-1 industrial land, but council’s vote today rezoned it as CD-1, or comprehensive development area.

As per Wall Financial’s plan for the development, there will be commercial/retail and light industrial at street level. It will contain 352 housing units with 23 units aimed at people on social assistance.

Anti-gentrification advocates speak out

However, the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP), an activist group, is opposed because they see it as the gentrification of the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

“We’re opposed to this project that it will have the same effect that Woodward’s had on the western part of the Downtown Eastside,” said Ivan Drury, researcher/organizer with CCAP.

Drury said that only 7% of the social housing in the development will be rented at welfare rates. While city council upholds that the development is creating social housing, Drury said that the planned development threatens 154 current SROs in the area through gentrification of the neighbourhood.

However, Councillor Reimer said there has been an interim rezoning policy for the area since March 28, 2012, and there will likely be a new rezoning policy in the near future as a result of citizen-led groups CCAP and Local Area Planning Process (LAPP).

“With the policies this development was approved under no longer in place, and control over the future policies directly in the hands of the community, it’s not possible to spark development. The planning process is the signal property owners are waiting for, not this rezoning,” said Councillor Reimer.

Sex trade workers could be displaced to unsafe areas

Another issue CCAP has with the rezoning and future development is how it may displace sex trade workers who work in that area.

“The reason they’re down there is because there are no residents down there. They’ve been pushed there by police and by the judgmental gaze of homeowners,” said Drury. “It’s still not a safe place or an acceptable way for women to be working, but they’ve created a community and they look out for each other.”

“The motion passed by council asks staff to work with applicant at the design phase to ensure it is safe for existing sex trade in the area,” said Councillor Reimer.

There are some people who say the DTES would be better if it were gentrified. An article on Vancity Buzz from September 17 says, “The proposal, if approved, will solidify the gentrification that is already underway in the eastern edge of the DTES. It would be a shame if the neighbourhood opposition and/or city council got in the way of this development. It’s exactly what the neighbourhood needs at this point.”

CCAP challenges that thinking. Through interviewing over 1200 DTES residents, they found that the marginalized people who live there feel a sense of community that’s unique to the neighbourhood. Their sense of belonging is very important and needs to be protected.

“Out of violence they’ve created systems of care, camaraderie, and systems of support, and that’s something we need to protect,” said Drury. “If we lose it we’re losing the soul of the city.”

Advertisements

Image

(Muriel Marjorie, DTES poet and cover photo for the Heart of the City Festival program guide. Photo by David Cooper.)

The Heart of the City festival is showcasing the culture, heart and soul of the DTES.

The massive program guide includes over 80 events happening from October 24-November 4. Events include workshops, poetry reading, community dances, musical performances, films – and more.

A misunderstood creative community

For Terry Hunter, associate director of the festival, it’s a treat being able to showcase Vancouver’s most diverse neighbourhood.

“I’m so thrilled to be able to work with the community to put our voice and our culture onstage,” said Hunter in a phone interview on Thursday.

“We want to change perceptions of the community. Many people have a black and white perception of the Downtown Eastside as a drug-ridden neighbourhood full of crime … People don’t see who we really are.

The artists of the DTES may or may not call themselves artists in a professional capacity, but regardless of their stature, they create some of the most prolific art in Vancouver right now. Because many come from marginalized situations, they see art as a means to communicate their voice, struggles and lives with the community.

“It’s all about relationships” – Terry Hunter

Planning such an extensive and diverse festival is no easy task to undertake.

“The only deadline we have is to get the info on the program guide,” said Hunter.

The team that plans the festival takes an integrative approach. They actively book events or showcases themselves, often grouped under an umbrella theme like “Rock and Roll.” Often, communities themselves plan something, and the Heart of the City team supports them in whatever ways needed.

“They might say, ‘We want to do a show but we need a space,’ or, ‘We want to do a show but we don’t have enough money,’ and then we help them come up with that,” said Hunter.

Other times, a community event that’s already been planned will ask to be included in the festival. If the team feels the event is connected with the community or what the festival is all about, it will be included. And, if there are annual events, like the Carnegie Community Dance, they’re put under the umbrella of the festival programming too.

“We’re very integrated and such a part of the community … We’re talking to people about events we might do next year,” said Hunter. “It’s all about relationships with people in the community.”

Highlights and major events

Some of the top festival picks, like Barrio Flamenco: Flamenco for the People and SURVIVAL, STRENGTH, SISTERHOOD: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside have already past.

Terry Hunter recommended a few of his top events over the phone on Thursday.

Building: a Social Writing Evening (Dunlevy Snackbar, 433 Dunlevy) with the DTES Thursday Writing Collective, directed by Elee Kraljii Gardiner, offers participants an opportunity to engage in a social writing exercise in an intimate, grassroots setting.

Big Jazz at the Heart of the City Festival (Ukrainian Hall, 805 E. Pender) brings the Downtown Eastside’s hot Carnegie Jazz Band together with the “King of Swing” Dal Richards and his seven piece Combo. This is one you’ll need to wear your dancing shoes for!

“Dal Richards is a legend in Vancouver’s jazz scene,” said Hunter. “My mother and father danced to Dal on top of the Vancouver Hotel in the 1940s.”

Terry Hunter is also a member of the Carnegie Jazz Band, which is led by Brad Muirhead.

OUT OF THE BASEMENT & V6A PROJECT PREVIEW (Carnegie Community Centre 3rd floor Gallery, 401 Main) includes the unveiling of the V6A Project, which highlights 11 years of theatre and music production in the DTES. A booklet of over 100 pages lends insight into all the productions profiled. Terry Hunter worked on this project as well.

“Personally, I’m really looking forward to sharing this book. It’s our way of thanking and honouring the community.”

On Wednesday, I went to the City of Vancouver’s event Finding Home at St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church. The building itself was beautiful, gothic architecture with high ceilings and stained glass.

Me and two other classmates were able to (briefly) interview Jean Budden, chair of End Homelessness Now, Councillor Kerry Jang, and DTES resident Danse Crowkiller on camera. Since the footage was for a broadcasting class assignment, we were there to get in, get our shots, and get out. Kerry Jang had some really awesome things to say about acknowledging that the homeless are people, not statistics. He reminded me how important putting a human face on an issue is.

The short interviews went great, and I got inspired to stick around and see all the speakers at the event. I was without a camera or recorder, which was a bad call on my part.

After dashing out to grab my notepad from my classmate’s car, I hurried back to the church for the rest of the event.

Patrick Oleman was the first guest I saw speak. He’s an aboriginal DTES resident. He’s been playing street soccer for three years, recently ran a marathon and is currently training for another. His success story was quite remarkable. After living in the Stanley Hotel for 7 years, he got into playing soccer on the Vancouver Street Soccer League, and eventually had the opportunity to go to Brazil with the team.

He shared a story from that time: before he departed with his team, his uncle held a prayer and granted a sacred feather to the team – he told them to find someone who inspires the entire team and give them the feather, explaining its significance in their culture. While in Brazil, they were playing a pick up game and a 10 year old boy joined in. He ended up beating a few people on the team, and his drive and spirit inspired them so they gave the feather to him.

“I’m trying to represent the ‘hood and Native people as best I can – I’m getting there,” he said.

Andrew Clark from the At Home/Chez Soi speakers’ bureau was the next who really struck me. He was another success story of someone who once had all the odds against him. He was either in prison or some other government institution from the age of 11 to 41.

The At Home/Chez Soi program is a housing-first approach to helping solve the homelessness issue run by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. By addressing basic needs like shelter, other issues can then be focused on and the root of homelessness can be addressed.

Now you’re not spending every waking hour in a line and another line,” said Andrew. He said that once you’re sheltered indoors, and that worry is no longer on your mind, you have time to notice your other issues such as any mental illnesses. It can overwhelming and it’s the first time you have time to cope with what you were too distracted to notice before.

“Success is an individual thing … I’m a success because this is the longest I’ve ever been out of prison in my life.”

Andrew went on to say, “Housing is a right, not a privilege.” People began to clap.

“It shouldn’t be something you have to fight for,” he said as the entire church erupted into applause.

Bill Quinn’s video presentation affected me the most on an emotional level. I can’t do his story justice through text. He is an Aboriginal elder from Oppenheimer Park, and his humility and wisdom moved me to tears.

He described how it felt to be ripped from his grandmother on a reservation at the age of 7 to be placed in a residential school. How he lost so much of his culture and identity, and how the schools focused so much on reforming their behaviour and Catholic prayer rather than “teaching things worth anything.”

“My life was messed up instead of getting any education.”

At 17 or 18 he was already living on the streets. However, he is now clean and sober from drink and drugs. He’s the only of his friends from residential school who has survived so long.

Far from being angry at the injustices in the world, Bill Quinn’s attitude was overwhelmingly humble and forward-looking. His demeanour expresses a faith in humanity and an outlook that’s positive and hopeful for change.

When asked how he keeps positive, Quinn recalled advice his grandmother taught him.

“Honesty. Be honest, be truthful, and things will work out fine.”

Another highlight for me was seeing one of my instructors, Alexandra Samur, along with Jackie Wong talk about their DTES Community Journalism 101 course. Someone from the course got up to read one of his pieces about waiting in the welfare line that ran in Megaphone magazine.

At the end of the night, heading home, I felt more inspired than I ever have to do something in the community to help. I pondered why this was so – it’s not as though I have been unaware until now.

I came back to what Councillor Jang had said earlier, and I realized it’s something I’ve been taught in journalism school, too –

putting a human face on an issue is the best thing you can do to make people care.

Several places in the Downtown Eastside will be serving up free turkey dinners this Thanksgiving to those in need.

The Union Gospel Mission on 601 East Hastings will be open on Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Keela Keepling, senior public relations manager, told the Vancouver Sun will be carving up 170 turkeys.

On Wednesday, to avoid overlap, The Door is Open at 373 East Cordova will dish out its turkey dinners.

Finally, on Sunday, October 14, The Salvation Army’s Harbour Light at 119 East Cordova estimates to serve 1,800 people from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The dinners are available to both the homeless and the working poor who are not homeless, but unable to buy food.

It’s heartwarming to see the community providing for those in need all year round, but especially at holiday times. For people who have little else it must mean the world to know there are people providing and looking out for you.

Homelessness Action Week 2012

In the spirit of Homelessness Action Week, the Union Gospel Mission is also going to be holding walking tours of the DTES from October 9-13.

At the East Van Love 6.5 tweetup on September 27, Derek Weiss (Manager of Community Engagement at UGM) said the best gift you can give the homeless is “the gift of presence.” Simply looking them in the eye and acknowledging they exist can feel like a HUGE thing.

As someone who walks through the DTES often, this hit home for me – I started considering how often I do this myself. I do think it’s absolutely ridiculous that I have friends from the ‘burbs who try to avoid walking on the same side of the street as the homeless – REALLY!

But, I did think about how little I connect with people on the street and avoid their eyes so they won’t ask me for change.

So I started trying something new – looking them in the face, smiling at them, and if I don’t have any change I tell them “I’m sorry, I don’t have any today.”

It’s not much, but I hope that just knowing they aren’t invisible counts for something.

I’m going to attend a walking tour and try to get to a couple other HAW events, and I encourage anyone who’s hesitant to interact with the homeless to do the same.

They aren’t animals, they aren’t scum, and they exist.

Let them know you’re aware of that, at least.

camille

the noble art of storytelling in business

Carissa Thorpe

Journalist by day, singer for supper, and writer of both by night.

Maple Ridge NOW

Created for a Langara course long ago... resurrected one final time.

New Westminster News

following the on-goings of the Royal City

Richmond News Beat

News and Happenings From Richmond, British Columbia

Surrey City Lights

Tapping the pulse of Surrey, B.C.

The Langley Lowdown

Langara journo student reporting the Langley news beat

Cara McKenna

Reporter at the Nanaimo Daily News.

by Michelle Gamage

Online portfolio and article dumpsite

The Vantage

A Fresh Perspective on Living the Good Life in Vancouver

Welcome To Eastvan BLOG

welcome to east van

eastvanbeat

news in East Vancouver as told by a journalism student in her early 20s.

%d bloggers like this: