Vancouver, July 22, 2009: Housing Minister Rich Coleman should keep the shelter at 1442 Howe St. open. That was the main message of a news conference held on July 21 in the alley behind the shelter.
Some local condo residents have organized to try to get the shelter closed at the end of July. The decision is up to Coleman because the province funds the shelter.
The Carnegie Community Action Project organized the news conference to show that lots of people support keeping the shelter open and to reveal how hateful some of the opposition to the shelter has become.
Residents at the shelter have been harassed by some local condo owners and supported by others who brought cookies. The worst form of hate, however, descended on the shelter dwellers from the Granville Bridge above the shelter. It was a bag of feces with a note attached: “Just F*** off back to East Van where you all belong. Get the F*** out now. The bombing will continue. F*** off losers.”
Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) said “We don’t know who did it, but it’s contributing to a climate of anxiety and a lynch mob mentality in the area.”
Fortunately J-Hock and Carter of Homeless Nation were on the spot to film the bag and note earlier in July. Shelter residents agreed to have a news conference about the hateful act but declined to call the police.
At the news conference Brenda Jamer, a condo owner who lives about a block from the shelter, told the media, “One of the main reasons why you haven’t heard from a lot of the residents in the area is that most of us haven’t noticed anything. Very little has changed here.” Jamer also said that one of her neighbours who refused to sign a petition against the shelters was told, “I hope you get mugged.”
While they were organizing the news conference Wendy Pedersen and Jean Swanson of CCAP both talked to condo owners in the area of the shelter who said they were afraid to speak in favour of the shelter because of intimidation by the who are opposed to keeping it open.
People who spoke in favour of keeping the shelter open included Glyn Townsend of BC Persons with AIDS Society. Townsend said the shelter was needed because hotels in the Granville area that used to house low income people have all gone upscale. Many people who used to live in them have HIV and want to be close to St. Paul’s hospital. But with the hotels closing, they have nowhere to live that they can afford.
Teresa Diewert of Streams of Justice encouraged citizens to take time to understand why a person is forced to use a shelter. Often, she said, a homeless person’s story is tragic. “People need support and community. These shelters offer that to people,” Diewert said. Patricia Morris and David Lee spoke on behalf of Just Build It, an organization of condo and business owners in the Downtown Eastside who support social housing. Citywide Housing Coalition and Pivot Legal Society, as well as the West End Residents Association also sent representatives to support keeping the shelter open.
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