Vision for 100% Social Housing at 58 West Hastings

Jan 18, 2018

Power of Women Photo
Power of Women (POW) at City Hall, calling for 100% social housing

Coast Salish Territories – On January 16th, there was a public hearing at City Hall concerning a rezoning application for 58 West Hastings. The application includes housing, but not at rates that are affordable to those on welfare and pension.

Since 2007, Downtown Eastside residents have advocated for social housing at 58 W. Hastings. Given the over-representation of Indigenous women living in extreme poverty and subjected to colonial gendered violence, our priority is to provide housing and safety for those on social assistance and pension.

For ten years, residents and supporters have marched through the streets, organized two tent cities including the 2010 Olympic tent city (organized by DEWC Power of Women members) and 2016 tent city, guided tours with BC’s new government including Ministers Selina Robinson and Shane Simpson, and held countless public meetings, demonstrations, and more.

There have been important victories at this site. In 2008, Concord Pacific was forced to pause its 154 units of condos at 58 W Hastings after a year of community resistance. In 2010, the Olympic tent city led by Indigenous women and elders of DEWC/POW won the immediate demand of housing all homeless residents living on the site. Following a second tent city in 2016, Mayor Gregor Robertson signed a commitment to build 100% social housing at 58 W Hastings.

Over the past few months,  members of the Power of Women group and Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition met with Provincial Housing Minister Selina Robinson, to ask that the Province provides adequate funding to ensure 100% social housing at welfare and pension rates at 58 W. Hastings. So far, advocacy to the City and Province  has secured at least 50% of the housing to be social housing at welfare rates.

Here is what powerful women had to say:

(thanks Alliance against Displacement for tweets)

Robin Raweater: “I’m dealing w/ child apprehension. In order to get my kids back, I need adequate housing. They won’t give my kids back till I find housing, but I’m on the verge of homelessness. How am I going to find affordable housing to get my family back? 58 West Hastings needs to be 100% social welfare housing. So many Indigenous mothers are being held away from our kids because we don’t have adequate, proper housing. I want to stress this point.”

Theresa Gray: “I live in the Woodwards Building and there are so many problems there. Before that I was homeless and involved in so many tent cities like Woodwards squat, Olympic tent city, Oppenheimer tent city.  Homeless people face violence from cops, bylaw, poor-bashers. Tent cities are important ways to amplify our voices. Saving peoples lives is important. Everyone deserves a home. Housing is a human right.

Elaine Durocher: “I’ve worked hard my whole life. All I can afford is social housing. Just because you’re low income does not mean you’re trash. Don’t steal the roofs over our heads to house the rich. Forget about bike lanes and only helping the middle class buy a home. What about all the poor people without a roof over their heads? I’m Metis, resided in the Downtown Eastside for 10 yrs. I was there when we voted for you, when you came down with all your promises about housing, shelters, no more homelessness. Do you remember, Gregor Robertson? You sweet talked us homeless people. I say us because I was homeless at that time. I was living in my car at that time. I was lucky to have a car so that I didn’t have to sleep in the parks. Gregor, you need to man up & stand beside us. Do you know what it’s like to beg for your life? We’re not going to give up this fight. I don’t want my grandchildren to be homeless on these streets.”

Joan Morelli: “Gregor, in the newspapers a few years ago a women died sleeping in her tent. At the time you expressed sympathy and said no one should die in those kinds of circumstances. But people are still dying. Everyday people are suffering. The poor, the low-income and when I say low-income I mean the poor working class people who also live in our neighbourhood. I would not be content with anything less than 100% social housing.”

Carol Martin: “I heard the opening territorial acknowledgement and sees our First Nations flags in here but I don’t see a lot of Indigenous representation in council. Did you consult with the host nations about this development? Where are the voices of First Nations people?  I’m sure you had good intentions while you were running but the representation for our people becomes lost in all this red tape. I hear a lot of people talking about cost of everything from our side, but we are talking about the cost of lives.

The impact it has on people living in the area, and people who were depopulated [and displaced] for these buildings to go up.  I’m seeing all this through Indigenous eyes.

You signed a document promising 100% social housing. What happened Mayor? Did you get lost on the way back from downtown.  I’m fine with social housing defined by us, not the city. I don’t trust the city anymore.”

The Our Homes Can’t Wait campaign and the community vision for 58 W Hastings has so far been endorsed by: Carnegie Community Action Project, Carnegie Community Centre Association, The Drug Users Resource Centre, Gallery Gachet, Alliance Against Displacement, Carnegie African Descent Group, Vancouver IWW, COSCO Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C., Union Gospel Mission, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, WAHRS – Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society, First United – Vancouver Downtown Eastside, Pivot Legal Society, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, Chinatown Concern Group, Chinatown Action Group, Aboriginal Front Door, and Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative.