The uniqueness of this new drinkers’ parklet stems from its significance to the people who use it, its permanence, and its relationship to decades of drinker displacement. For over 50 years, public infrastructure in the Downtown Eastside has been targeted for removal at the expense of community residents, especially drinkers. Now, the community considers the Drinkers Lounge parklet to be an act of resistance to policies that have worked for so long to displace many of its most marginalized members.
The mood in the building was palpable, as tenants woke up in a new world they had helped create. PHS released a statement saying that a broken wire was found and replaced by sheer coincidence, but it was clear that the tenants had forced PHS’s hand, and everyone knew it.
This is about context. And in the current context where there is no housing for unhoused people, calls to clean up the streets mean violence – displacement, dispossession, banishment, death.
On July 25, 2022, the Vancouver Fire Service issued an order to decamp the newly-formed tent city of people sheltering outside on Hastings Street. Every year the tent cities continue to grow as the housing crisis worsens. Unhoused people and low-income SRO tenants are now creating an alternative community of survival and mutual support on Hastings Street. Earlier this week the City and VPD began enforcing the Fire Order, with events on Tuesday (August 9) that can only be described as a police riot.