Many of you know Ada Dennis: Carnegie kitchen volunteer of 5 years, winner of the City of Vancouver’s Volunteer of the Year award several years ago, familiar face on the 2nd floor and in other parts of the hood. She and 31 other people and families were evicted on Feb 29, 2008 from 334 Carrall Street.
At the time she was evicted Ada’s apartment was owned by Robert Wilson of Georgia Lane Developments. He was renovating and raising the rents, the first step in flipping the rooms for condo conversions. Wilson was responsible for shutting down the Pender Hotel in 2006 and for the new condos going up next to it. In 2006, he bought 5 hotels that we know of and 2 apartments in the DTES and flipped them to the province. Unfortunately he flipped the apartments at 334 Carrall to a private developer, Robert Fung with Salient Properties, and they were converted into condos.
Other buildings around Pigeon Park were also lost to gentrification. The mostly elder Indigenous residents at the Burns Block across Hastings from the park were evicted when the fire chief closed the building in 2009. The rooms there were rebranded “micro-lofts” and are rented out by Gastown BIA chair Jon Stovell for $800-$1000 a month.
This is what Ada wrote to City Council for her speech in December 2007 at a meeting about social housing:
My name is Ada Dennis. I live at 334 Carrall Street in the Downtown Eastside and have lived there for 3 years and they are tearing it down. They sold the building. There are 32 homes in the building. Everybody has to move. Some have places, some don’t. I have no place to go, no place to put my furniture and my belongings.
My home is owned by Robert Wilson the condo developer who bought 9 hotels in 2006. New people will buy my home and will pay half a million or a million dollars to live where I live now. I needed to make money to prepare for moving by selling my belongings on the sidewalk. I got a $75 fine for that.
I want you to keep your promises for the Olympics and give the homeless a place to live. I want you to give me a place after you make homes for them. I might be homeless soon if you don’t keep your promises to make more housing.
Now I’m afraid that I’ll have to move to a place that won’t take my cat or won’t have room for all my furniture. I don’t want to be in a hotel room. It’s not safe and not clean. I may end up on the street and be killed or raped or serious damage done to me that I don’t deserve.
I can move to Surrey and Burnaby and find a roommate so I can afford a place but I’ve had so much problems with them over the years because they don’t pay their rent on time then I get in trouble.
I don’t want to be far away from my volunteer work. I was the volunteer of the year and have won lots of awards. It makes me feel good to win awards and that I’m appreciated. Working at Carnegie makes me not think about stupid things like suicide. I’m supposed to take 19 pills a day but I don’t need them because working with people, talking to people, discussing things and getting suggestions from others is really good for me. I learn different things. Last weekend I helped with the children’s Christmas Party at Carnegie. I lost my family and my Carnegie friends are like my family.
I put in all my social housing applications but I’m not hopeful because there are big waiting lists.
I want City Hall to make more housing for people.
I want to live in BC Housing, a co-op or social housing so I can feel secure.
I want to live in this neighbourhood so I can still volunteer here. I would like a full-time job here.
I want you to raise my welfare so I can get housing and live happily without being harassed and kicked out.
If you don’t protect the hotels everyone will be out on the streets and going to jail for a place to stay. I want more housing built in the DTES.
People should have a right to live where they feel comfortable.
My name is Ada Dennis and I might be homeless soon if you don’t keep your promises.