On Saturday April 18th, our members and supporters organized the Kennedy Stewart Squat in the Downtown Eastside to provide emergency shelter for unhoused and underhoused residents seeking space during the COVID-19 global health pandemic. It has been heartening to receive support for the squat in our community and our member organizations. The squat was also supported by Vancouver School Board commissioners, following cities in Ontario, Massachusetts, Arkansas and elsewhere that have used schools for emergency shelter during the coronavirus pandemic.
Steffanie Ling and Jannie Leung sit down for a discussion on the insidious nature of art-washing, raising political consciousness in the face of neoliberal capitalism, and strengthening the emerging alliance between cultural workers and community organizers in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
This year there are eight candidates running in the Vancouver city council by-election, including Jean Swanson and Judy Graves. Given their longtime involvement in Downtown Eastside politics, the media has been quick to conflate Graves with Swanson. But are they really so similar, and what exactly are the politics behind Judy Graves and OneCity?
“Every day that the Liberals delay allowing a new government to be formed,” said NDP’s Spencer Chandra Herbert earlier this month, “is a day that more people lose their homes.” With today’s vote of non-confidence, a feeling of optimism is now in the air. But will an NDP-Green government actually address homelessness? Will it fund non-market housing or even minimally alter the rules of the housing market?
In their annual Housing and Homelessness Report Card, the City of Vancouver reports that 1,683 units of new social housing are in development or have been built since 2012. Yet based on research by the authors, under 6% of the new social housing is guaranteed for people on welfare. The vast majority of Vancouver’s “social housing”, therefore, will be unavailable for the 1,847 people reported as homeless in Vancouver this year, the highest number since counts began.
Earlier this fall Vancouver’s Gallery Gachet was notified that 100 percent of their funding from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) will be cut by December. The cuts reflect a trend in health services towards an increasingly limited definition of health care. They also come in the context of the continuous loss of affordable housing, increased policing, and accelerating gentrification in the wake of the City’s two year old Local Area Plan for the Downtown Eastside.
On November 13th, the City of Vancouver announced that it would launch a crackdown on illegal street vendors in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). The City’s director of Social Policy, Mary Clare Zak, informed DTES community groups that “starting next week you will begin to see a larger City presence in the DTES, including VPD officers, as we continue our efforts in the area to ensure it is a safe place for everyone.” According to Zak the objective is to “support and facilitate the movement of street vendors from the [0-300] block of E. Hastings Street and surrounding area.”