For Immediate Release
Thursday, August 24th, 2022
COPE calls for immediate and longer term actions to end the homelessness crisis in the Downtown Eastside and across Vancouver
VANCOUVER — The situation in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) is out of control mostly because people do not have their basic needs met. Here is a brief rundown of recent happenings:
- Two SRO hotels (Vogue and Lucky Lodge) evict their long term vulnerable residents;
- One hotel burns down, another hotel next door is uninhabitable, and two are killed in the fire;
- Hundreds of people are tenting on Hastings St. without basic sanitation and washrooms;
- A leaflet is distributed which threatens to torch all the tents and their residents as well as Insite;
- Two more SRO hotels become uninhabitable because of fires;
- Another person dies allegedly because of police action; and
- Hundreds die from poison drugs.
- There is virtually no vacant housing affordable for low-income people;
- Welfare and disability shelter allowance remains stagnant at $375;
- A BC Supreme Court judge quashes the City’s SRO vacancy control by-law, allowing landlords of low-rent rooms to raise rents as much as they want — for now;
- Governments' safe supply policies and programs are nowhere near meeting the real need;
- Tensions are rising between housed and unhoused residents;
- The city is threatening to make the tenters on Hastings move to nowhere; and
- Promised washrooms on Hastings haven't materialized.
COPE is calling for immediate short, medium and long term actions to deal with this multi-level crisis.
In the short term:
- Provide washrooms for tenters on the street. If the washroom at Pigeon park can't be fixed and if washroom trailers are not available, rent porta-potties and pay and equip peers to keep them clean.
- Close off some side streets and/or find a space like a parking lot where people who are tenting on Hastings can go and be, and where we can provide washrooms, water, electricity and basic sanitation, overdose prevention and cultural programming.
- Fund peers to organize and maintain these safer places. Since provincial and federal housing and welfare policies are causing these problems, they should be asked for the funding. If they won't provide it, the City should take it out of reserves if there is no other budgeted source.
- We need real safe supply that anyone who uses street drugs can access so they don't die. Federal and provincial action on this is needed and the City should be out front in advocating for it and providing space and other help when asked.
- The City has to appeal the BC Supreme Court’s recent ruling that quashed the SRO vacancy control bylaw, and ask for a “stay” so that tenants aren’t evicted during the appeal. The provincial government must also amend the Vancouver Charter to give Vancouver clear power to protect its own renters.
- COPE calls on all three levels of government to buy hotels and/or any empty apartment buildings that can be offered immediately to unhoused people for dignified housing.
- If none or insufficient numbers are for sale, COPE calls on all three levels of government to immediately acquire a site or sites for tiny house villages, and to either buy or build tiny houses for unsheltered people so they can at least be dry and have a door to lock by winter. Provincial and federal governments should pay for this but if they won't the City should.
- The time to plan for thousands of new units of dignified new housing is now, with a timeline for when we will actually have enough so no one has to be unhoused. Senior government should pay for this with the City providing the land.
- The province needs to raise welfare and disability rates to meet the real cost of living.
One principle for this action plan is that peers, not police, should provide a lot of the advice, labour and love to make it work. Nothing about us without us! .
When elected, COPE Council candidates Breen Ouellette, Tanya Webking, Nancy Trigueros, and Jean Swanson will work to make this happen. However it needs to start now.
Jean Swanson: “We need immediate actions to provide safety and basic sanitation for people who are currently tenting on the streets. The city should close off some side streets or find a space like a parking lot where people who are tenting on Hastings can go and have access to washrooms, water, electricity and basic sanitation, overdose prevention and cultural programming.”
Nancy Trigueros: “Winter is only a few months away, so we have to start now to find accommodations for people who are homeless. All three levels of government must make haste in acquiring hotels, apartments, as well as a site or sites for tiny house villages.”
Tanya Webking: “One building of housing can take over three years to build. Let’s start now to plan thousands of new units of dignified new housing, with a timeline for when we will actually have enough so that no one has to be unhoused.”
Breen Ouellette: “Canada ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and in doing so accepted responsibility for adequate housing as a basic human right. The Province and the City are both obligated to ensure that everyone has access to adequate housing. The Province needs to raise welfare and disability rates to meet the real cost of living. The average rent in an SRO unit is now a shocking $600, so the shelter allowance must be immediately raised from $375 to at least $600. At the same time, the City absolutely must appeal the BC Supreme Court’s recent ruling on SRO vacancy control. And all levels of government must immediately revise their budgets to make it a top priority to provide adequate housing for every person in Canada.”
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