article photo, credit Tami Starlight

Photo credit: Tami Starlight

DTES residents and allies from across the city vow to continue picketing Pidgin restaurant at Carrall and Hastings until it packs up and leaves. They aren’t asking for jobs, sympathy or token charitable gestures. Picketers are saying “no” to the incursion of business interests upon low-income homes and livelihoods.

According to DTES resident and picketer Fraser Stuart, “shutting down Pidgin sends a message to all gentrifiers: the DTES is not open for business until our housing needs are met. We need 5,000 new welfare-rate units to meet the need, and they have to go in before any more condos go in.”

Pidgin is part of a gentrification project that began in 2008 when real estate speculator Robert Wilson bought the building at 334 Carrall and evicted the 30 low-income families and singles living there. The building was then “flipped” to new owners, who hired developer Salient Group to upscale the building into a condo complex called “21 Doors.” Over the past year, Salient has marketed the condos to aspiring gentrifiers. The high-end Pidgin restaurant, partly owned by Salient’s Robert Fung, is part of a deliberate strategy to increase property values and marketability by removing poor people.

The first week of business saw ten separate pickets dissuade many would-be patrons from entering. As the third week of protests drew to a close, over 50 picketers had spent a total of 40 hours holding placards and conversations on the sidewalk across from Pigeon Park. The artist formerly known as Homeless Dave explains, “Retail gentrification is part of class cleansing and segregation. We can’t keep doing hit-and-run protests. To stop displacement, we have to draw a line in the sand. This is the genesis of the last stand for the DTES. ”

Real dialogue makes for bad publicity

The Pidgin picket has made headlines across the country and around the world. The “President” of Pidgin, Brandon Grossutti, admits that the stark contrast between wealthy patrons and those who frequent Pigeon Park across the street was bound to cause a stir. Pidgin’s marketing strategy is to position itself on the edgy frontier of Vancouver’s world-class inequality. Grossutti even claims to have chosen Pidgin’s location to start a “conversation.” According to DTES worker Paulo Ribeiro, “it seems like he’s saying: ‘I’ve decided to open a fine dining restaurant in an incredibly impoverished neighborhood so rich people can come here to have a conversation about it.’ That is what they call a one-sided conversation.”

Pidgin repeats Judas Goat’s and the Salt Tasting Room’s tacky shtick of inviting diners to observe the desperately poor from the comfort of a high-end restaurant. The Pidgin Pickets turn the voyeuristic, poverty-tourism design in on itself. Picketers stare inside. A viewing booth, “See the rich! 5¢,” was added to the sidewalk. The discomfort of those patrons who chose to cross the picket was clearly visible through the storefront-wide windows. Grossutti signaled the first stage of defeat by papering-over and then frosting Pidgin’s windows.

Contrary to Grossutti’s positive spin, news of angry protesters intimidating diners has kept foodies away, as an observable decline in business attests. People are already placing bets on how long Pidgin can hold out. Meanwhile, pedestrians who could never afford to dine there anyway stop to talk with picketers about the personal impacts of all the high-end businesses transforming their neighborhood.

Ironically, Pidgin has been defended as an example of social mix. Social mix is the apologists’ euphemism for gentrification, and Pidgin sure is a good example. The aesthetics of each renovated storefront clearly signal which income bracket is welcome inside. Gentrification is what it looks like: cleaner, whiter, richer. Aesthetics are the grease on the wheels of gentrification. Entrepreneurs, artists and developers are transforming the streetscape so quickly that residents are experiencing culture shock. Trickle-down benefits aside, Pidgin is a zone of exclusion in an inclusive, diverse neighbourhood.

Defensive patrons, politicians and mainstream media have defended Pidgin’s affordability by pointing out that the menu starts at $5 (for pickles). Welfare recipients have only $26/week for food. Others echo Grossuti’s dubious claim that he will lose everything if his “dream” fails. If the people who drink and sleep in Pigeon Park or deal and trade on the corner were actually given the choice between their own removal and one man’s bankruptcy, I would not begrudge them either way. Most disturbing is the new wave of condo-dwellers who insist that this is now their neighbourhood. DTES senior Timothy tried to tell one such angry patron that communication is necessary to community, but was shouted down.

Gentrifiers assert the necessity of striking a balance between social justice and business interests, but only on their terms. Without veto power the low-income community has little leverage with which to negotiate. The only bargaining chip poor people have is the ability to refuse raw deals through community organizing and direct action.

The disheartening prediction that “gentrification is inevitable” is continuously validated by the displacement of lower-income people by business interests, here and in every other post-industrial city. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy promoted by gentrifiers, capitalist sympathizers and their most confused victims. Developers, businesspeople and the entire ruling class have a vested interest in framing the discourse in terms of pragmatism and apolitical technicality. As Thatcher often repeated, “there is no alternative” (TINA). It is no surprise that the wealthy have a hard time imagining the alternative to injustice.

But why should renters in Vancouver passively accept their role in this system, wherein each income bracket displaces the one below? Renters are being priced out of the city – we literally can’t afford not to fight our landlords. The Pidgin Picket is one front of resistance, a focal point for a broader refusal. Allies from across the city are finding common cause with DTES residents’ struggle and heeding their call for solidarity. As the picket grows, more people are realizing that “gentrification is inevitable… unless we organize and fight!”

42 Responses to Eat the rich: picketers promise to shut down Pidgin

  1. Laurent Mazurek says:

    Gentrification is by no means whiter, the desired cultural outcome of the revitalization is to impose financial power over the “weak” in question. The real problem is that the media are utilized by the power brokers to divert the public’s attention away from the causes, getting lost in a smoke screen of red herrings. Some might salt in the wound, bad news for some great news for others . . .

    • Allister BigRig Park says:

      There is a racialized component to power though. Those with monetary might are certainly not universally “white” (or more specifically of Anglo-Saxon European descent, or whatever other ethnic groups are now considered honorary members of “Club Whiteness”), however it certainly isn’t happen-chance that the DTES holds the largest population of First Nations. The same can’t be said for Shaughnessy, or the British Properties. Race and class position do not always correlate, but in the context of Vancouver, or even Canada? Power often comes in shades of pale.

      • TT says:

        I’m pretty certain they were speaking aesthetically. The current retail landscape is of predominantly white interiors.

  2. Rorschach says:

    Part of the problem is identifying middle-class people who are likely in debt as ‘the wealthy’ or ‘the rich.’ I am sorry, kiddos, the people buying these condos and destroying your precious sewer are not the idle rich—these are not the “rich” of antiquity, the landed aristocracy who spends its days riding horses and its evenings dining in opulent splendor. The simple fact is that Pidgin is not even an expensive restaurant, in the grand scheme of things. It’s a midrange, middle-class place.

    They are, effectively, renters too, except they’re renters who pay a premium to gain equity in what they’re renting—but they still need to pay that “rent”, otherwise the mortgage holder may enter and seize the land. And yeah, they dress differently—they have to, in order to keep those jobs that pay them the money to pay their mortgages.

    Of the people picketing, how many were born in Vancouver? How many are people who have come to our fair city to make trouble for us natives?

    • Allister Bigrig Parker says:

      “How many are people who have come to our fair city to make trouble for us natives?”

      I dunno, we should ask some of the Natives who live in the DTES about that. I think some of ‘em have been around these parts for about 500 generations now, yeah?

      • Rorschach says:

        Ah, perhaps we can use this sort of hierarchy to decide who should get the finite and inadequate resources, that of “more native than native.” A native of an area is one born in the area. Having native parents does not render one any more native, and having non-native parents does not render anyone less native—nativity has to do with birth.

        But really, nobody has been around for 500 generations. I “know what you mean,” but it is horribly insipid. People are not their parents. Gotta love those hierarchical narratives, amirite? I mean, without them how would we decide who deserves help and who’s just a rich parasite?

  3. Kenji says:

    This is would be hilarious if it wasn’t tragic. Industry — creation of valuable items and services for profit — is the one and only source of tax revenue, which pays for every cent of the aid that you think you deserve. I’m not saying that industry can’t do damage or that it should not be regulated to prevent it from hurting people in its blind demand for income. If Pidgin was serving tainted food, or the owner was underpaying the workers, or was a front for crime, then there is a legitimate interest in shutting it down.

    What this protest does is clarify that a handful of locals want the DTES to remain the low income, business-free slum that it is has been since they drove out the Japanese Canadian businesses from the Oppenheimer Park area.

    It is certainly their right to have this view and express it. However, I can’t see it defeating the process of gentrification. If anything, the ire and friction that is being generated here has every likelihood of creating a blowback on the DTES resident. Surely there is a smarter way to get ahead than to drive out a legit business.

    • Kevin says:

      I have been trying to explain the very fact that you mention (counter-productiveness of this action) to the protesters, but they won’t listen. They admitted to me that they have targeted Pidgin not because it’s actually a problem, but rather because they needed a target that would be high profile enough to “get people talking”. That’s the very irresponsible actions that will cause disengagement amoung the majority population, and cause people in the community to lose jobs there because of the decreased business. Sad they are too self involved to recognize the damage their behaviour causes.

      • Rorschach says:

        “Sad they are too self involved to recognize the damage their behaviour causes.”

        And how. But I don’t know that it is entirely their fault—there are the poverty pimps blasting them with thousands of megawatts of “it’s not your fault, babies, it’s The Man’s Fault!” on a daily basis. You are what you eat, and, unfortunately, these people associate with the poverty pimps, so they eat their effluent. What would be really nice is a look at who on the public dime (not the social safety net, but the public dime) is pulling the puppet-strings of these kiddies. Remember: follow the money. That’s why they call it money. The biggest losers in all of this will be the poverty pimps who now have a captive population of low-income serfs but who will lose that as the neighborhood “gentrifies” (read: becomes home to people who don’t depend on Papa Government to nanny them). In a very real way, gentrification is the process of maturation, and these poverty pimps do not want their “clients” to mature, nor do they want their clients to be displaced into the regions served by other poverty-pimps. After all, a pimp’s gotta keep his hoes in line, right?

  4. Ivan says:

    It’s true that the DTES is being gentrified by working class bodies, but don’t let that cover up its bourgeois design.

    The truth is that “buying” (or renting from the bank) cheap condos built on land with (until recently) depressed price will not solve the housing crisis that affects all working class and low-income communities. It will, however, make a lot of money for otherwise idle developers.

    Additionally, and this is our principle complaint, these condos sold to working people WILL displace low-income peoples’ homes and communities.

    • Rorschach says:

      “don’t let that cover up its bourgeois design”

      The problem here, Ivan, is that outside of your little poorkids streetgang/clique, such a criticism is garishly ridiculous. I have no doubt that you gain immense self-congratulatory pleasure sitting around talking about how your precious sewer is being refit with a “bourgeois design,” but I want to let you in on a little secret: most people prefer bourgeois design to sewers! I know, talk about lack of solidarity with low income people, but that’s a fact: people prefer communities designed intentionally by shop-keepers to communities “designed” by the inability of their inhabitants to exercise any independent agency—even the Carrall street “market” requires the city to look the other way and to, effectively, damage/injure licensed businesses in the area by allowing unfair, unlicensed competition. Gosh, if only we could all use the taxpayer-funded streets as our place of business, without paying for the upkeep of those streets! Great business model! Let other people pay for your infrastructure!

      The housing situation is unfortunate—but it’s unfortunate all over, even for people who can afford mortgage debt. Want to talk unfair privilege, unearned privilege? How about the unearned privilege that the poor expect, whereby their “problems” are regarded as more authentic than the problems of those who need to service debt? Having no home is a problem; having to slave 40-60+ hours a week to afford one’s home is another sort of problem. Why do the poor expect their problems to be privileged?

      Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the difference between scientists and romantics. A scientist acknowledges that some problems are insoluble due to finite constraints. A romantic refuses to acknowledge this, and I think that may be a key difference between the two world-views. So, on the housing crisis, as you put it, it is quite apparent that the finite constraints render the problem insoluble. This brings us to a very, very interesting question: how are resource allocations to be performed if it is accepted that there’s not enough for everyone.

      Presume that Government simply cannot build enough welfare units—I’ve seen the figure 5000 bandied about, which is pie in the sky. So Government can only build a fraction of what would be “necessary” to solve the problem. How is that fair to those who are left out? How is there possibly any rationality involved in deciding who’s in, who’s out? There can’t be, except by creating hierarchies of privilege. If Government cannot be a total solution, is it fair to have it act as part of the solution at all? Honestly, how is creating social housing that won’t house everyone any different than creating an Aristocracy, a privileged class that has done nothing to earn its privilege? It’s one thing to help everyone equally—it’s quite another to argue for “help” knowing full well that it cannot be distributed to everyone.

      “condos sold to working people WILL displace low-income peoples’ homes and communities”

      Yes, OK. If someone cannot afford to live somewhere, he must move. I guess these grim meathook realities aren’t supposed to be part of life in a modern nation-state? Why? Because you find it inconvenient? Freeholds cost money. If you haven’t paid for a freehold in land (or airspace, as the case may be), why should you be entitled to the benefits only obtainable in law by possession of a freehold estate? Because your romantic worldview says so?

      • Theo LK says:

        Are you actually equating the effects of a legacy of institutionalized abuse and cultural genocide to the housed, educated and employed middle classes’ struggle to pay the interest on their line of credit by needing to work overtime?

        Even if you don’t agree with picketing Pidgin, I don’t understand how you can’t see that creating housing for our own people should be a top priority. Is it really so hard to conceive of injustices that result in homelessness?

        • Rorschach says:

          “I don’t understand how you can’t see that creating housing for our own people should be a top priority”

          Well, by “our own people”, do you mean Canadians? Why should City of Vancouver foot the costs for housing all sorts of Canadians who like our mild climate—where is Canada going to kick in some cash to house these Canadians who find their way here?

          And if you mean British Columbia, same deal—why should CoV foot the bill for so much of BC’s addict/down and out population? I guess that the province does kick in some cash, but nowhere near enough to be effective—and then there are the increased policing costs. Another way to look at the “all those tickets written in the DTES” stat is to say “oh, wow, we wouldn’t need as many cops to write vending tickets if the people down there didn’t violate bylaws!”

          I don’t completely disagree with you, but I am also not going to create a “hierarchy of suffering” such that the homeless suffer “more” than the poor bastards working for the weekend, servicing debt. Their sufferings are both objectionable, both different, and I cannot see how to rank one over the other except on fundamentally aesthetic grounds—one finds it less beautiful for the homeless to be homeless than for the middle class to be debt slaves.

          The concept of unearned privilege must be applied to all domains—the poor have had a “free ride” for far too long, premised of the aesthetic notion that their suffering is “more real” than that of corporate debt-slaves.

          • Kim Hearty says:

            your false consciousness is so deep, Rorschach. Try listening to this when you come down:

          • Rorschach says:

            “I can’t come down it’s plain to see
            I can’t come down I’ve been set free.
            Who you are and what you don’t make no difference to me.”

          • Steve T. says:

            Rorshach, to say “the poor have had a ‘free ride’ for far too long”, completely undermines the countless systemic determinants that have made them poor in the first place. and it makes you sound bigoted and ignorant.

          • Rorschach says:

            “the countless systemic determinants that have made them poor in the first place”

            That’s a jargon-laden theory, and the only persons to whom it might apply are children, who are subject to involuntary, unpaid servitude which the cryptofascists call ‘education.’ But at 16, one may drop out, so after the age of sixteen, certainly by the age of majority, it is illegitimate to wholly blame systemic factors for one’s poverty because one is not forced to participate in a system at that point. Further, it is not black and white—if these “systemic determinants” are wholly external to the poor, then nobody would ever escape poverty. But that is false; some people do escape poverty. Therefore, it is not merely “systemic determinants” which render and keep people poor; their own failure to use their agency appropriately is involved.

            These protests are a great example. Of the protesters, how many are unemployed? Rather than spending time protesting, why aren’t they pounding the pavement looking for a job? Because they think protesting is more important than gaining remunerative employment? OK, fine, I respect that choice in that it isn’t my life, not my business. But how can they then be totally exempt from responsibility for their voluntary choice to avoid job-seeking, in order to protest? Only through a narrative of privilege where the poor protester is regarded as a sort of Aristocrat who deserves to be supported by the working classes. Now, I believe in the welfare state—but I believe in an egalitarian welfare state, a guaranteed national income for everyone. We need to start giving everyone payments before we start building housing for the privileged few who misuse their freedom.

            The problem I have with your view is that it is neurodegenerative. It makes a sort of sense for the poverty-pimps and social workers to have this view, because it justifies their paternalistic interventionism. It does not make any sense for a poor person to have this view, because it is dehumanizing and illiberal. But if you want to create a captive population of serfs for social workers and poverty pimps, by all means, spread around this mental degeneration. Convince the poor that they are incapable of raising themselves up out of poverty because they have no stake in their own impoverishment—convince them to indulge in infantile protest, demanding that Papa Government solve their problems for them.

  5. tyler says:

    So now you guys are quoting the comments on your message board?

  6. Nicholas Ellan says:

    Might makes right, eh. Nature red in tooth and claw. Are you entirely opposed to the concept of civilization, or just those parts which take from the rich to give to the poor?

    “If Government cannot be a total solution, is it fair to have it act as part of the solution at all?”

    Oh, entirely opposed then. Moving along…

  7. Moved Out says:

    You have to be pretty blind not to realize how tasteless it is it to open a restaurant like Pidgin on E. Hastings. I thought it was tasteless enough when the art kids started throwing parties at Funky Winkerbeans with $8 covers. ‘sorry, this used to be your hangout, but not anymore on Sat. night’ The situation is completely asymmetrical. What kind of power do local residents have in comparison to that of big developers or the owners of Artitzia? You have a community of people who’ve spent most of their lives on the wrong end of the stick, and the best business owners like Grosutti can really offer them is to say ‘trust me, I’ll try and include you in your neighbourhood.’ Calls for dialogue, or ‘responsible behaviour’ on the part of protesters ignore that power differential. Whatever the rhetorical flaws of the article it’s completely correct that the only reason developers and their accompanying businesses are moving is because of the profit to be made and that their actions are constrained by that purpose. This isn’t a social project to ‘fix’ a neighbourhood.

    I lived around Main St. Mt. Pleasant for ten years from the late nineties on thru the 2000′s and even from my privileged middle-class position I can testify to how alienating it is to watch your rather comfy neighbourhood with an established social life be transformed into some kind of faux-Williamsburg carnival of banal restaurant design where each storefront window feels like a little money blackhole trying to suck at you wallet except that you don’t have enough money to try any of the food so you never go in. I couldn’t live there the way I like to (working a landscaping job 30hrs a week and paying cheap rent) so I left town. That’s obviously not so easy for many people down on Hastings. Imagine how it feels now for someone who’s been living down there for fifteen years. I doubt they feel welcome anymore. The ways that they get by probably feel less and less tenable with each down-market business that goes yuppie.

    The new businesses down on Hastings have an awful lot of capital behind them. Whatever the personal intentions of their managers/owners they’re constrained by the needs of that capital. Local residents won’t get be well treated by these new businesses unless they meet force with force, unless they produce their own power to counter that of the money that’s moved in. I don’t see why they should be sanctioned for doing that, it’s the only way anyone ever gets a fair shake.

    • Kevin says:

      You said “Local residents won’t get be well treated by these new businesses unless they meet force with force, unless they produce their own power to counter that of the money that’s moved in.”

      Brandon, the primary owner of Pidgin, hands out free food every week, supports the Rainier, and employs about 20% of his workforce from within a 10 block radius. Sounds like you have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about once you start looking at the actual facts.

      I am new to the DTES but not to the issue of poverty and gentrification. I’ve been poor since I was a child and life certainly tried to keep me that way (severe injuries, on multiple occasions, I never sought financial damages, because I just wasn’t like that). Gentrification occurs in all cities and has occurred for centuries. The issues require concrete plans not the vitriol being spewed by the protest group.

  8. Ed says:

    There is a lot of talk about how inclusive the DTES is but you seem to only include people who are of the lowest class- anyone who makes more than is paid out on welfare is rich and therefore not a true DTES resident and not welcome. $5 for a pickle plate doesn’t seem out of line with any random appetizer plate at any random restaurant (even a side of fries at Denny’s will run you that much when all is said and done) and its laughable that its an issue to anyone. Painting anyone who moves to the neighbourhood who isn’t on welfare as “rich” isn’t going to win you any support. Because some DTES residents live on $26/week people who work are not allowed to do anything? Who is going to pay for your 5000 rental units if you won’t tolerate anyone who can afford an appetizer?

    • Kim Hearty says:

      Hi Ed,

      I suppose that from the outside, the DTES might look like an elite enclave of self-righteous welfare recipients within an otherwise welcoming, inclusive city. Especially compared with other Vancouver neighbourhoods containing a healthy mix of affordable and unaffordable housing, and restaurants that serve the rich, the poor and the hard-working middle class alike. Who else would be doing the yardwork in Shaughnessy, and serving coffee in Kits, if lower-income people were not tolerated there?

      I hope all rich people and middle-income working class people like myself feel welcome in the DTES. We are welcome to become part of the community by joining in dialogue, in cultural and social events, and liberation struggles. If you want to feel welcome in the DTES, taking over what’s left of the welfare-rate SRO rooms and supporting gentrifying businesses that do exclude most residents is not the way to go. Your inclusion should not come at the expense of another person’s expulsion.

      • Kevin says:

        Again a persons issues were ignored and rhetoric employed. I’ll explain because you folks obviously need a teacher.

        Ed brought up specific points related to product pricing and sourcing funding for social housing. Those two issues were never addressed in a the response. Instead Kim brought up the same rhetoric previously employed. That’s how you alienate people who might be swayed to your side with a reasoned argument. Nice job undermining your movement.

        I’ll point out that like international trade, it’s important for areas which are low income with few resources to bring in those from wealthy areas to spend money so as to import financial resources into the region. Without it you simply have an increasingly impoverished region, which due to the nature of the market continues to spend money outside it’s borders and thus creating a negative economy. Though this is usually viewed on a macroeconomics level, it has some relevance on the smaller scale such as inner city communities.

        Learn about more than just one topic, because these issues are multifaceted and require a review of the many issues at play, not just the one that slaps you in the face, because typically the issue you see is a symptom, not a cause.

  9. Elle says:

    If people want more low cost housing provided by the city why aren’t they protesting at city hall — the decision makers?

    • kim hearty says:

      we go to city hall all the time, and we are active in municipal parties. Developers control city hall, and it isn’t the only locus of power to blame for gentrification. Gentrifiers themselves play a small role.

      • Kevin says:

        Small role, eh? Well then maybe go after the ones playing a LARGE role? That would be too intelligent and reasoned wouldn’t it? Ever consider writing up some legislation/by-laws and lobbying your representatives to put it forward? I taking more and more issue with you folks as I learn and read more about you.

  10. RL says:

    Low cost housing is a city wide problem not a DTES problem. Yes I agree, developers have taken over our city and are driving people out of neighborhoods but that has happened all over the city (hey Waldorf). I believe that a civilization should be judged by how it treats it’s weakest citizens, so I support needle exchanges, shelters, food programs, addiction counselors etc. But it frustrates me to no end that the community of the DTES has taken some of the most beautiful buildings in the downtown core and said ‘give them to me for free just because I want them’. I pay through the nose and need to work 2 jobs to afford living in Kitsilano (I don’t have a car…need to live closer to work)…I don’t expect some of the nicest property for free just because I like being there. There needs to be lower income housing yes, but this needs to be city wide. We are a highly unaffordable city for everyone..not just the DTES. Yelling and screaming at restaurants that are just wanting to make an honest living isn’t addressing any of these issues. To be honest these picketers have made me so mad at their ignorance and misplaced anger, I got to that restaurant just to support it.

    And where are all these indignant protesters for what’s happening in Chinatown? This historical cultural part of town is being ruined (take a long look at all the closed stores and empty buildings) because the East Hastings crowd has decided that they would like take over Chinatown. It’s depressing to see these businesses that pay rent and taxes get slowly ruined by the begging, urinating, open drug taking, screaming, defecating etc., that happens on their door step every day. How can their businesses thrive in that atmosphere? Where is the rage, and people marching on city hall for the poor honest store owners in Chinatown.

    I’ll take these commenters a little more seriously when they don’t just stand up for the DTES but all the little guys out there.

  11. Kevin says:

    I’ll point this out again:
    Pidgin: A grammatically simplified form of a language, used for communication between people not sharing a common language. Pidgins have a limited vocabulary, some elements of which are taken from local languages, and are not native languages, but arise out of language contact between speakers of other languages.

    The meaning in this instance is to create a dialogue between economically and culturally disparate groups. Think about it.
    I’m just about done coming to this site to comment, seeing as the reasoned arguments like mine are either ignored or attacked with the same rhetoric and lack of thought as the protesters seem to hold in general.

    Social housing can be gained if you built a coop and made concrete plans to make it for yourself. There are ways to make small units available at a low rent or even a small mortgage for those who are permitted to hold assets while receiving their income. Instead of attacking a business owner and standing around jerking each other off all day, how about actually doing something. Firm numbers to support your position would be nice, and don’t you dare ask me to do it for you… again.

    Once you have some work in to support yourself, and to show me that your not just the lazy whiny hippy types I surrounded myself with as a youth (and that you appear to be), then I’ll come to your aid and do all I can. Until then, please, get your own in order before you start attacking others.

    (I live in the DTES on a fixed income in an SRO. I have several medical problems which cause me to be disabled. I AM of the people being displaced. I question because that is what reasoned people do. Reactionaries and their ilk are the source of the evils of the world, not the solution).

    • Kevin says:

      Oh and one of the employees of Pidgin lives in the same SRO I do. And he got jobs for several of the people who live on the street. Brandon also hands out free food every weekend and has taken an active role in helping out the ladies at the Rainier. What do you actually do to improve the life of DTES residents?

      • Kevin says:

        Sorry had to add more….

        So 50 protesters put in over 40 hours. I’m assuming that’s an average per protester. So 2000 hours were put in…. So at minimum wage that’s over $20000. Maybe you folks could have done something to earn income instead and then used that income as the capital to fund a social housing cooperative. But that would just be to logical wouldn’t it?

      • Nicholas Ellan says:

        Charity is not a substitute for justice.

        • Rorschach says:

          What is justice? Is justice robbing someone at gunpoint to use the funds to build a housing project? Taxes are collected not by free consent but by totalitarian diktat. Pay or be robbed. The sort of cognitive inbreeding now present in the K-12 system and the University system wherein you people don’t actually learn to do anything but repeat propaganda about how “justice = authoritarian socialism” is very disturbing to rational actors.

        • Kevin says:

          Charity? WTF are you on? I never said give away a bunch of money. I said use that to begin acquiring the capital to make your desires reality. Social change isn’t effected by begging, but by action. Instead of fighting people and organizations and the system in general, how about doing it for yourself, by using the system. A self sustaining housing cooperative which uses excess revenue to produce additional housing units while maintaining reasonable market rate and low-income subsidized housing.
          My point was that in just the protest action alone, a possible $20000 in capital was tossed aside in favour of getting attention while attacking a business (owner) who had so little to do with the issue that the protesters would respond to the question of “why him?” with “It has to be someone.” I’m at the point where I hope you fail just because people should not be encouraged to be quite so wilfully ignorant.

          • Allister BigRig Parker says:

            Or better yet – instead of a cooperatively run condo project, why don’t the residents of the DTES just open a bootstraps shop? That would be the quickest way to empower everyone to pull themselves out of poverty! WOO!

            Seriously though, Kevin has a rock solid plan here. I mean… sure, he forget to calculate CPP, LTD, EI & income tax deductions from our revenue stream, and he hasn’t told us how we’re going to secure a multi-million dollar bank-loan for our development without any collateral, but… hey! We’re ignorant, and i’m sure Kevin knows exactly how a system designed to produce social inequality can actually be our savior!

          • Kevin says:

            I can’t to reply to allister, no button below his post, but one above so I’ll use that.
            I think you’re thinking a little big for what I suggested as a possible path.
            You can use $20000 to purchase individual unit at the lower end of the local market. You operate it at as close to net zero as possible without risking it. Since many (not all admittedly) low income earners are in receipt of social assistance in this area, they cannot purchase assets like residential property, you can rent to them at as close to net cost as possible, which should be relatively low. As equity is built, you can leverage it to obtain more properties, which you rent in the same fashion. You double the number of properties operated every purchase cycle. Operate as an NPO or something similar.
            It would start small and grow over time. You’d get some extra overhead, so either you’d need subsidies or it would get stuck into rents, but there’s a long time to figure that out. Slow but steady. Yes there’s a need now, but it can’t all be done for the people, the people have to do it for themselves too. We’d have to wait for them to get built in the first place. Perhaps approach developers with this plan. Get them to build just for your needs, once you had adequate purchasing power.
            I thought it was all fairly apparent.
            If you don’t think it’s a workable concept (with the exception of needing approx 50% more capital, ill admit prob required ), then explain how. Start a proper dialogue to find a solution instead of being excessively aggressive and dismissive. Your behaviour serves no one but yourself.

  12. Former-Youth-in-Care says:

    I personally find the picketing of this restaurant to be the most ill considered, ham-headed, foolhardy and useless action I’ve seen to date. You’ll get no sympathy from the ordinary working stiffs who put in their time and pay their taxes to pay for the (admittedly meager) social safety net that many people on the DTES are using. Such actions just undermine the entire message about what’s needed for greater social equality and create narratives of “low-income entitlement” that do nothing but harm those who would benefit the most from more inclusive and affordable communities.

    Instead of picketing a business that has every right to be in the neighborhood and is working within it’s own context to be a good neighbour, how about talking about ways that Vancouver/B.C. could become more affordable? Why not talk about taxing empty condos and using the proceeds to pay for subsidized housing in areas across the city? Why not talk about bringing in legislation making it illegal for stratas to ban the rental of condos?

    I fail to see how driving a business out of a neighborhood improves anything. This business didn’t displace housing, as some commenters seem to be suggesting – it replaced an empty storefront with a full storefront. To make the protesters look even more ridiculous, the restaurant has gotten 50 times the attention it would have gotten without the protests. If they were, indeed, trying to sell poverty tourism, the protests are the best advertising campaign they could possibly get.

  13. Ivan says:

    Rorschach and anyone else on this site arguing “Taxes are collected not by free consent but by totalitarian diktat. Pay or be robbed” are trolls plain and simple. Not part of the struggle for social justice and not useful contributors to the ML discourse. Just my opinion but I got no time for this anonymous jerk.

    • Rorschach says:

      The struggle for armed robbery to finance the continuation of unsuccessful phenotypes you mean, Ivan. If confronted with the choice between the die-off of unsuccessful alleles and armed robbery to keep them around, what would you choose?

  14. Tim says:

    It’s time for the people who want public housing in the DTES to build it themselves.

    Their endless protesting has built nothing. They have managed to alienate many people (just ask Mike Soron and dozens like him), given an unknown restaurant tons of ink, and make themselves look totally inept in the process. What an achievement.

    These protestors picket restaurants, but never — ever — protest drug dealers and pimps. What kind of Marxist turns a blind eye to the predatory capitalism of drug dealers? The Pidginites do.

    It’s time for them to build something they design and manage and control all by themselves. Organize a housing co-op. Get the City or the province to donate the site. Go to Vancity and get a co-op mortgage, and get CMHC to guarantee it. Persuade the next NDP government to provide the working capital. Find the architect, consult the community, and build the damn thing. Why not 500 units?

    In the process use Bladerunners, train DTES residents in the building trades, make a deal with the Carpenter, Joiners, Plumbers, Electricians etc etc etc unions, and just build it.

    If they don’t do this, they will discredit themselves all over again.

    If the Pidginites do, they will have learned something about REAL community organizing, and have built hundreds of tenant-run units in the process.

    But if they’re not prepared to work that hard, they have no one to blame but themselves. It is a total mistake to rely on the state to build what you want.

    Build it yourselves, people. We’ve done it before. You can do it now. Your picketing hasn’t built a single room — anywhere. Time to do real work. Build it yourselves.

    • Rorschach says:

      “What kind of Marxist turns a blind eye to the predatory capitalism of drug dealers?”

      The kind that doesn’t want to get beat down, I’d wager. If they did this sort of thing to the skeevy DTES drug dealers, they’d be risking their lives/bodies. But you make an excellent point: why don’t they pick on people whose stock and trade is promoting dependence and misery? I mean, they could just as easily stand in front of the Carnegie and call the police every time some skeevy lowlife says “rock? down?”

      • Tim says:

        The Pidginites may be smart to avoid confronting the drug dealers and the pimps. Or they may just be cowards. Either way they do no good for the DTES. They actually complain about someone who sells pickles. They say nothing about the scum who sell heroin.

        Their anti-restaurant actions have failed to earn more than ridicule. They make their whole cause laughable. Now, they’re trying to turn Homeless Dave into some kind of martyr. (In real life he is not homeless, but apparently that doesn’t matter.) This will also fail.

        It’s a loser strategy, and when Homeless Dave goes into diabetic coma the ambulance will come and haul him away. And that will be the end of it. Pointless.

        As long as the Pidginites turn a blind eye to the drug dealers and the pimps, they will have no moral standing.

        As long as the complainers refuse to do anything for themselves, they will have no community standing. Back to my point. If they want to achieve anything real they have to build housing themselves. To their standards. To their criteria. And do the work themselves.

        Building co-op housing is really hard work. It takes intelligence and dedication, long hours and faithful listening. It’s a helluva lot harder than protesting.

        It’s also a million times more productive than standing in the rain, screaming at strangers.

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