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Press Conference at Fraser Street Shelter to Launch New Housing Campaign

by Maxim Winther

Press Conference at Fraser Street Shelter to Launch New Housing Campaign
Press Conference at Fraser Street Shelter to Launch New Housing Campaign
Press Conference at Fraser Street Shelter to Launch New Housing Campaign
Libby Davies at Housing Action Press Conference
Banners Hang from the Ceiling of The Former Shelter Site
Press Conference at Fraser Street Shelter to Launch New Housing Campaign
Press Conference at Fraser Street Shelter to Launch New Housing Campaign
Ellen Woodsworth at Housing Press Conference

Housing Advocates and Politicians Hold Press Conference at Fraser Street Shelter to Launch New Housing Campaign

Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories (May 6, 2011) – In response to the closure of the Fraser Street Shelter, housing advocates met today outside it's closed doors to hold a press conference to announce a campaign to re-open all closed shelters, and pressure all levels of government provide funding for much needed affordable housing.

Background:

The City of Vancouver closed the last of four HEAT shelters on Friday, April 29. The shelter operators have since pointed to the urgent need to reopen all four shelters. “RainCity has been running these shelters for a few years, and the moment we open them they are full at capacity within 48 hours, and they are full to capacity until the moment they close,” said Sean Spear, Associate Director of RainCity Housing. “If the shelters were to stay open, they would fill up to capacity right away.”

On Friday, April 29, more than twenty housing activists and community members staged a sit-in to demand that the city keep the city-owned Fraser Street building open. The city made the decision to arrest eight activists after seven hours, citing a lack of funding from the province and claiming that all of the shelter residents had been housed. Several of these residents were not housed and remain unhoused, although they represent only a portion of hundreds of people who will return to the shelters if they are reopened.

After the closure on Friday evening, several residents returned to live in the shelter parking lot, where they were joined by supporters on Sunday, May 1. On Monday, May 2, deputy city manager Brenda Prosken ordered police to dismantle the tent city, citing new city bylaws forbidding the construction of “structures used for political expression” without permit.

Many residents chose the parking lot in order to avoid past addictions and harmful personal and/or work experiences, stating that not being housed in the DTES was a matter of life and death. “I used to work for the man who was pushing women out of buildings down there,” said one shelter resident. “I collected my own welfare check for the first time in three years when I came here to Fraser Street.” According to Maxim Winther of Vancouver Action, “Fraser and Broadway was not just a shelter, it was an important community space and a stepping stone for people who wanted to get out of the situations they found themselves in. This safe haven needs to be reopened and to stay open year-round.”

At the press conference, housing advocates from various groups announced a campaign to pressure the city and province to commit to affordable housing and reopen the shelters.

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