Olympic Tent Village Ends, Homelessness Continues

Olympic Tent Village Ends, Homelessness Continues

Olympic Tent Village Ends, Homelessness Continues

Tent city dismantled after housing found for 35 homeless people
By Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun, March 2, 2010

The last remnant of Vancouver's anti-Olympic movement began to be dismantled Monday as activists closed their tent city in the Downtown Eastside.

The tents at 58 West Hastings came down after BC Housing found social housing units for 35 homeless people who had joined the tent city set up by the Olympic Resistance Movement and other anti-poverty groups.

Activist Nathan Crompton said the new housing was a "victory" for the tent city strategy.

BC Housing initially said there were no units available, but then found units after one of its offices was briefly occupied Friday by activists and homeless people, said Crompton.

"We see it as an initial victory, although it's fairly bittersweet because there are still another 1,000 homeless people in the five-block area," added Crompton, a member of Vancouver Action, an anti-poverty group of mostly university students.

BC Housing media spokesman Sam Rainboth disputed this version of events.

Rainboth said staff from the provincial housing agency began searching for available social housing units after going to the tent city site Friday and determining how many people were homeless.

Rainboth said the tent city did not force BC Housing to find units.

"If people had come to us individually and applied and gone through the normal process, we certainly could have identified options for them," said Rainboth.

City Coun. Kerry Jang praised the activists for pushing homelessness onto the agenda. Jang said the tent city's success was in marked contrast to the disruption caused by the so-called "black-bloc" anarchists on the first day of the Olympic Games.

"The tent city people went with the approach of getting [their] message out without disruption -- and so the focus stayed on the issues rather than on the behaviours."

Jang said the homeless activists have helped put the spotlight on the need for a national housing strategy -- a demand Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson plans to raise in discussions with the Conservative government in Ottawa this week.

"They got their message out, which will make our voices more effective in bringing the issue of housing the homeless to the provincial and federal tables."

Jang said the visiting media saw the city during the Olympics "warts and all and began to understand the challenges we face."

He added that "it was really a great two weeks."

Tent city activist Crompton said the people behind the tent city now want to focus on ending the gentrification in the Downtown Eastside, between Abbott and Main streets.

Crompton and other activists fear that the redevelopment of Woodward's, despite its inclusion of social housing, is causing property values to rise in the area, reducing the number of low-income units in the area.


Other News and Info

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Olympic Tent Village