People at Downtown Eastside Town Hall meeting strategize to stop homeless crisis: By Jean Swanson
A National Housing Crisis day, tent cities across the country, and identifying and working to get specific sites for social housing were all suggested as things we can do together to try to force the three levels of government to stop increasing homelessness. The ideas came from people at a packed Town Hall meeting in the Carnegie Centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on January 9, 2016.
“We need everyone’s help,” said King-mong Chan of the Chinatown Concern Group, noting that Chinatown has been flooded with 998 units of market housing and only 54 units at welfare rate. “This excludes the low income Chinatown community and displaces retail that serves their needs,” he said.
“Let’s raise our voice,” said Patricia Aguilar-Zeleny of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. Aguilar-Zeleny said rents are too high, there aren’t enough units, there is racism against Chinese seniors, and that women in SRO hotels are afraid to complain about bad conditions because they might lose their housing.
“We should tell governments to take $1 billion out of police, prison, military and immigrant enforcement budgets and allocate the $4 billion to build housing,” said Aiyanas Ormand of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).
“SRO hotels are the only housing for low-income people so there is an urgency to save them,” said Mohammad Valayati of the SRO Collaborative which has been fighting to get heat for tenants of the Lion Hotel.
Ivan Drury of the Alliance Against Displacement said tent cities are an example of homeless people building people-power while fighting for the government to meet people’s immediate needs. “We need that kind of energy,” said Drury. We need to be “part of an international fight against displacement.”
Jean Swanson of the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) presented 3 possible “solutions” to the housing crisis for low-income people that could be the basis of a campaign:
1) Build social housing on 10 sites, 6 owned already by the city and 4 to be bought;
2) Protect and improve SROs
3) Bring in real rent control.
The meeting, sponsored by the CCAP and translated into Mandarin and Cantonese, ended with a brainstorming session about how to get governments to end homelessness and provide decent housing for all who need it. There will be ongoing regular meetings to come up with strategies and actions.