Organizers from the Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition (OHCW) and homeless residents of the Downtown Eastside have occupied the empty lot at 58 West Hastings. The Coalition has issued the following statement:
“Two years ago, Mayor Gregor Robertson promised the people of the Downtown Eastside that the City would build 100% welfare and pension rate housing at 58 West Hastings. This was a victory for the poor, the homeless, and the working people of the city, hard won after years of tireless organizing. In five days, Mayor Robertson and half of City Council will leave their seats without fulfilling this promise, abandoning Vancouver’s most vulnerable residents to die in the streets.
A decade has passed since Mayor Robertson promised to ‘end homelessness’. Today, there are over 2,100 homeless individuals in Vancouver. In his ten years in power, City Council sold Vancouver to the rich and destroyed the livelihoods of the poor to make way for towers of steel and glass. We invite Mayor Robertson to this occupation so that we, the people of the Downtown Eastside, can thank him one last time for all he’s done for us.
While the Coalition savours Gregor’s resignation and the humiliating end of Vision Vancouver, we know better than to blindly trust their replacements. This occupation is a challenge to the next Council to fulfill the promise of 58; it is also a threat of future action to come.
In May, we took City Hall. Today, the Coalition’s message for the politicians running for Council has not changed: there will be no business as usual at City Hall until there is 100% welfare and pension rate housing at 58 West Hastings. There will be no peace in this city until every person sleeping on the streets has a roof over their head and a life with dignity.”
The occupiers at 58 West Hastings will hold a press conference at 4PM and a community dinner at 6PM.
On August 2, 2016, Mayor Robertson signed an agreement at the Carnegie Community Centre to proceed on a rezoning application for 58 West Hastings promising 100% welfare and pension rate, community-controlled housing by June 2017. Since then, the City of Vancouver and building operator Vancouver Chinatown Foundation have backtracked on the agreement, stating that only 76 of the 230 proposed units of the building are guaranteed to be rented at welfare and pension rates.
The Downtown Eastside community has been fighting for a decade to secure adequate housing for Vancouver’s poor and homeless at 58 West Hastings. This year, OHCW organizers led a series of actions to pressure Mayor Robertson and City Council to fulfill the promise for the site. On May 1, 2018, OHCW blockaded Vancouver City Hall. One month ago, organizers and homeless residents of the Downtown Eastside returned to attend Mayor Robertson’s last city council meeting. They were barred from entering the building.