A small media storm emerged last week after a profile of Socially Responsible Vancouver tours appeared in Travel section of the Toronto Star. Since 2014 the tours have charged tourists $185 per person ($195 for two people, and $275 for a group of 10) to view the Downtown Eastside.
Today we took to the streets and reversed the narrative by leading a “yuppie gazing tour.” Our message was that we’re not okay with poverty tourism. We flipped the script and made rich people into the subjects of our gaze, marching through Chinatown while chanting, “Downtown Eastside is not a safari, drive away in your Ferrari”
In 2008, Gregor Robertson built his successful mayoral campaign around the tragic death of Darrel Mikasko, a homeless man who burned to death trying to keep warm after being turned away from a Kitsilano shelter. But while Gregor was campaigning on a soon-broken promise, low income people in the Downtown Eastside were actively fighting against a new threat of displacement posed by Concord Pacific – this time on a property down the street from Woodward’s. The address was 58 W Hastings, evicted and demolished (“demovicted”) by Concord Pacific that same year.
April of this year marks nine years since welfare rates – still frozen at $610 a month for a single person – have gone up. Although the provincial government plans to increase disability rates by $77 a month in September, they also plan to begin charging people who receive the disability pension $669 a year for a bus pass that they now get for $45 a year. This means giving with one hand and taking with the other, and the decision has enraged the many people trying to get by on meagre benefits across this province.
On Friday, August 14th, the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS) held a rally and picket to support the Unist’ot’en Camp. The camp, located on unceded Wet’suwet’en Territory, has been under increasing pressure this summer with repeated attempts to survey traditional lands for the TransCanada pipeline.
Today, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Public Library broke ground on a new library in Strathcona. The new VPL branch includes 21 units of social housing for single mothers. Despite positive media coverage, the truth is that the social housing units were built despite Vision Vancouver’s plans for the project.
This year’s Vancouver homelessness count showed that more people than ever are living on the streets in BC’s largest city. Housing across BC is about to face even more strain with the expected mass expiration of funding for existing social housing. In the next 20 years, over 36,000 units of non-profit housing in Greater Vancouver, including co-op housing, social housing and senior housing, are set to lose their funding. Over 45% of these units will lose their funding in the next six years and the majority of them – 17,000 units – are located in the City of Vancouver.
WEST VANCOUVER, UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORIES: On Wednesday August 6th, Downtown Eastside residents evicted from gentrified hotels, Oppenheimer homeless campers, and housing advocates held a news conference in front of the multi-million dollar mansion of Vancouver’s most notorious gentrifying landlord, Steven Lippman.
Social Housing Alliance organizer Natalie Knight opened the news conference saying: “This year the BC Liberal government made two announcements about housing: first, that they will no longer build social housing. And second, that they will increase their private rent supplement programs.” Gesturing at the mass of concrete construction for the $4.5million mansion nestled in the hills of the British Properties, she said, “Weak rent controls that allow landlords like Steven Lippman to do mass evictions and double rents combined with private rent subsidies for those same landlords means the BC government is funneling money to the wallets of rich landlords to build mega mansions like the one Steven Lippman is building here for himself.”