Fellow Citizens, you should know about this:
Many of you know of the infamous Oppenheimer Park in my ‘hood, the Downtown Eastside. It’s a pretty grim park, frankly. I only go there rarely and I don’t let my dogs walk there because of the needles. And other stuff. See image below.
People without a house and nowhere to couch surf hang out there in the day and sleep there in cardboard and cheap sleeping bags at night. Not my kinda crowd, not easy people to be around, and easy to dismiss.
But this next part is insane:
Yesterday morning at approximately 4:30am the police took action against the homeless living in the park. People were ticketed and were allowed to leave with their belongings- those who didn’t have shopping carts or other means of carrying their belongings had everything loaded into a garbage truck that had followed the police into the park.
The police stated they intend to continue this action on coming nights.
I ask you:
1. What the hell is the point of ticketing them? TICKETING the HOMELESS?
2. Exactly who among us is upset that we can’t use the park at 4:30am because people without homes are sleeping there? Why, precisely, was it so imperative that they be moved along at that ungodly hour?
3. Where, exactly, do we as a society expect them to move along to? At 4:30 in the morning? Without a place that is their own?
My fellow citizens, and especially those in Vancouver,
if you, like me
- have a place to call home (esp. us property owners)
- enjoy enough abundance that we can delight in getaways for the weekend (ironically, away from our own homes)
- possibly struggle with so much stuff that we actually store our excess
if you, like me want, to live in CANADA, not some Dickensian horror,
for Christ’s sake (perhaps literally), here is some action you can take:
- Hold your politicians to account. This is not about the police. It’s about what kind of society your politicians are shaping. E-mail the following with your thoughts on the matter: Mayor Sam Sullivan, email@example.com Peter Ladner firstname.lastname@example.org ; Kim Capri email@example.com ; Suzanne Anton firstname.lastname@example.org or the entire council at email@example.com
- Inform yourself further – easily – by things like joining the facebook group Streams of Justice. This is a faith-based group but you will be comfortable hearing about and joining their activities no matter your own faith or no faith at all. Or, browse and keep checking Blackbird’s photo documentaries on homelessness in Vancouver on Flickr.
- If you are ready for some more radical action, I am considering sleeping outside myself as an act of solidarity. Not sure when, not sure where, but I hope to have my podcasting skills up to speed and contribute to the documentary of what happens at 4:30am in Vancouver. If you may be interested in joining me, either twitter me (money coach is my handle) or do a bit of research to figure out how to contact me (because of the nature of this post, I am not going to publish my e-mail or I’ll get tons of hate-on stuff)
We don’t have to settle for a lame-ass city, fellow citizens. But our politicians need to know we’re not OK with this.
The park in question:
Photo Credit: The Blackbird
update – this press release:
July 17, 2008, Vancouver, BC: Police continue to ticket and confiscate belongings of “homeless” campers at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside every morning. The sweeps typically happen between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. and campers were threatened today that multiple tickets will turn into arrests tomorrow.
Neighbours are concerned about this and not for the usual reasons the public would expect. Kathy Walker, a parent of 5 and resident of a house across the street from the park, will sleep out with the campers tonight. She said: “The park has been very much under control all year. People are quiet, they clean up after themselves and they support each other. They put away their tents before the park opens at 8:00 a.m. These people are part of a community. We want Oppenheimer exempt from this unfair by-law.”
With a virtual zero % vacancy rate, closure and upscaling of many local residential hotels, 40,000 turnaways from shelters over a 9 month period in the area, the campers themselves wonder where they are expected to go. Brian Humchitt and his partner Tina Eastman were ticketed this morning. They said: “We’re homeless in our own land. We are struggling to survive in our home which is our tent.”
Wendy Pedersen, parent of 2, resident of the DTES and organizer for the Carnegie Community Action Project, says “these tickets will turn into warrants. This by-law is the perfect tool to aid the police to move people where they want them to go before the 2010 games – out of the Downtown Eastside.”
PIVOT Legal Society is collecting tickets and planning to contest them in court.
A convergence of concerned neighbours is planned for 5:00 a.m. Friday morning and a press conference will be held at 6:00 a.m. Planning is underway to continue the pressure.
Where: Oppenheimer Park, 400 block Powell Street
When: Friday, July 18 6:00 a.m. – near the totem pole