Interview by Sarah Sheridan
Beginning in this Winter issue, the Volcano will recognize a community member for their advocacy and organizing efforts in the Downtown Eastside community. For our first recognition we would like to spotlight Jack Gates, a resident of the Regent Hotel. Over the past few months Jack has been bringing media and community attention to the lack of heat and hot water in his building. I met with him to talk about his involvement in renters’ rights and organizing in the Downtown Eastside.
“I’ve lived in the DTES for around a year and a half and the people here are family to me-brothers and sisters. Jack identifies as a spiritual man and isn’t shy when speaking about his newfound faith that has made him into the person he is now- a man working for the people. He says, “God’s the reason that I quit drugs and alcohol. People are in slavery, enslaved by their own addictions.”
Determined to make positive changes in his building, Jack has been exposing the unfit building conditions in his hotel to the community and the media. “It’s no way to live-whether they do drugs or drinking they’re entitled to live like human beings too. God never gave up on me so I’m not giving up on them. They shouldn’t have to feel that way no matter what their predicament.”
Jack’s activist work began in the summer when he attended his first SRO Collaborative meeting which are held every Saturday. He said that Wendy Pedersen, lead organizer with the group, “started gradually teaching me about my rights and now I’m passing that on at the Regent.” Jack has put himself at great risk of backlash from his landlord by speaking out. But his bravery has paid off: the media and the City of Vancouver have taken notice.
Still, Jack doesn’t consider himself a leader in his work to fight for better living conditions for residents. “I’m exactly the same as everyone else. I don’t know what makes a leader but that’s not why I’m here. My job is to make sure that every man, woman, and child has a safe place to live.”
Thanks for all your hard work, Jack.