What do you think about this vision for the DTES?

CCAP organized 3 planning days with 25-40 DTES residents in the last 4 months. It was attended by residents who live in social housing, hotels, outside and in shelters. We wanted to come up with a draft vision for the neighbourhood as a starting point and take it out to some open community meetings to see if the community supports it. What do you think about the vision? We’ll have a community meeting about it soon.

Our vision is to:

Honour the Coast Salish people on whose unceded traditional territory the DTES resides.
Celebrate our strong community of urban Aboriginal and low-income people of many ancestries, abilities, cultures, health conditions, genders, ages and sexual orientations.
Put people first and welcome all who advocate for affordable low-income housing and appreciate our community values.
Ensure low-income people have affordable homes
and access to resources to meet our needs.
Unite in fair processes and act in peaceful and necessary ways, to expand our abilities, overcome adversity and protect our community.

Here are our values according to the residents at the planning days. They put these into order of importance.

Working for justice and the community
Respect for each other and nature
DTES sovereignty
Acceptance/non judgmental
Creating places of sanctuary

And here are their priorities for housing also in order of importance:

Housing for homeless
Communal housing
Intergenerational housing
(for couples, children, people with disabilities and elders)
Replacement housing for people in hotels
Supportive housing
Independent living housing

If you agree or disagree, we want to hear from you. CCAP will make opportunities for you to speak in public about this soon.

vancity logo

Support for this project does not necessarily imply Vancity’s endorsement of the findings or contents of this report.

CCAP accuses city of erasing the DTES and the city responds

The last Carnegie Newsletter had a copy of a letter sent by CCAP to the mayor. The title was “Downtown Eastside Erased from City Maps.”
Here are some selections from the CCAP letter:

“This may seem like a small quibbly thing for you, but for Downtown Eastside Residents, it is a big thing. The City has been putting out maps that have erased our neighbourhood. To be specific, page 4 and 5 of the city’s March, 2009 Social Indicators and Trends report had no DTES and has divided the DTES into Strathcona and Downtown. This also happens on pages 31, 35, 40, 44 and 58….The DTES has already been included in this article about children in the Vancouver Sun….Displacement is really happening. In 2009, CCAP’s hotel survey found an additional 800 hotel rooms between 2008 and 2009, lost to rent increases beyond what people under the LICO can afford. The success of Woodwards has driven up land values in the area, which makes it more difficult for DTES residents to secure their tenure here. We hope council will help us take another path, one that recognizes the rights of low-income people to not be displaced from their historical community because land has suddenly it has become more valuable.

We ask you to have your staff put the DTES back into maps about city neighbourhoods. We aren’t gone yet and don’t plan to go!! Thank you.”

Since that letter was sent, the City has responded. Here are a few paragraphs from the letter. To see the full letter go to the CCAP blog: http://www.ccapvancouver.wordpress.com

Dear Wendy, I am writing to address the concerns you raised in correspondence to Mayor and Council dated October 9, 2009, regarding the 2009 Social Indicators Report.
The Social Indicators Report relies on data provided by Statistics Canada census files that are produced every five years as the census is completed. The census data are widely recognized as a key source of statistically valid demographic information and forms the basis for a wide range of planning and social policy work.
Census tracts are the units of data we receive from Statistic Canada, and the tracts have geographic boundaries that are strictly defined by the federal government. These boundaries do not always match what Vancouver citizens and the City view as neighbourhoods. We also use the larger ‘local area’ geographies that the Planning Department has employed since the 1960’s…We recognized that there is often misunderstanding between the terms “local area”, neighbourhood”, and “community” and that this can be confusing to the reader. In response, we highlighted the use of Statistics Canada geographies, our methodology (and the availability of other information on the DTES and other neighbourhoods)…
…You are right to note that the vancouver.ca/communities page presents a number of local areas as “communities” which can be confusing. There are also instances where residents refer to local areas as communities (e.g. “the Grandview Woodlands community”) which further blurs lines. We are reviewing the City’s web pages and will consider your feedback.
I very much appreciated the presentation by you and Jean Swanson to City staff on September 15 on the mapping research that CCAP has undertaken. CCAP’s qualitative approach to research and quantitative approaches like the Social Indicators Report are often complementary…

Yours truly,

David McLellan, General Manager,

cc Mayor and Council and Planning Staff.

Look for more DTES erasure, it’s happening.


pigeon park

Join CCAP gentrification tour

Walking Tour

Sites Of Empowerment & Gentrification

Tour with CCAP
Saturday October 31, 11:30am–1pm

Start at the Carnegie Centre front steps and visit some of the best loved places in the area according to the stories of low-income DTES residents.

Contemplate how these key sites give us clues as to how to build a vision for a safe, healthy and affordable low-income neighbourhood and how this future is threatened by gentrification. CCAP is building consensus within the low-income community for a vision of the Downtown Eastside that hopefully the city will adopt. Visioning reports and information on gentrification can be found on their blog: http://www.ccapvancouver.wordpress.com.

All proceeds to CCAP. $10 for non-residents, low-income people free.


Don’t rely on outsiders to organize your community

A famous community organizer came to the Downtown Eastside on Sept. 25th. But guess what? He didn’t tell us how to organize our community. His name is John McKnight and his official title is Professor of Education and Social Policy and Co-Director, Asset-Based Community Development Institute at North-western University in Chicago. He said Barrack Obama was his student years ago. But when he got here he said, “The wisdom is in your community and not from the outside.”

McKnight spoke at a community forum at the Japanese Hall. Almost the first thing he said was that he had read the Carnegie Community Action Project’s mapping report and it was the “best single asset map I have ever seen.” He then proceeded to list all of the DTES community assets set out in the report.

Then he talked about how important the image of a community is in whether or not, or how it can change. He said the image is created by the media, funders and health and service agencies. But he stopped short of saying that there are too many health and service agencies in the DTES.

McKnight also talked about a structure that he says enhances resident power. He said that resident based organizations where members do the work and aren’t paid should form an association of associations. No agencies, schools, libraries, business or government representatives should be part of this association for at least 2 years, he said.

Then they could be invited to attend and speak but not vote. “Don’t think about partnership and collaboration,” he said.

McKnight suggested a planning process where people from the neighbourhood and associations spend 2 days defining everything they need to make the neighbourhood better. Then they decide which things they can do themselves, which require themselves and help from outside and which require all outside help to get done.
(Continued on page 4)


McKnight at Japanese Hall

(Continued from page 3)
McKnight also talked about a “culture of giftedness.” This culture says to each resident, “This is a place where we know you have a gift, and we need it.” “Everyone who is paid,” said McKnight, “should say ‘no one deals with me without me understanding their gift.’”

The meeting was organized by organized by the UBC Learning Exchange and the Building Communities Society. Of about 80 people who attended only about 15 raised their hands to say they were DTES residents.

This may be because the event was on the day after cheque day and people were notified by email rather than posters.

I found the talk really interesting and valuable in the DTES context although I think McKnight probably underestimates the power of the dominant culture and the need for decent housing and incomes as a prerequisite for a healthy community. He also said that in one neighbourhood study, all the money put into social and human services and housing subsidies would have been enough to bring the low income people up to the poverty line. I am uncomfortable with this kind of thinking because it leads to undermining universal social programs and replacing them with right wing voucher systems where the poor have to compete with the wealthy for health, education and other services and they still have very little money.

Residents Solutions to Downtown Eastside

Published Oct 24, Jean Swanson, Vancouver Sun Blog. Edited for the NL by wp:

Last month I wrote about our mapping process. The DTES, it turns out, has lots of good qualities like acceptance, empathy, 5000 units of good social housing, needed and appreciated services, and a sense of community that other neighbourhoods would die for. Michael Geller responded, basically saying, yes but what do residents say about the public perception of the area as “four blocks of hell”; what should be done with drug dealers and to increase safety, other than to build more housing.

Last Monday CCAP assembled about 30 low income DTES community leaders and asked them what they thought the bad things about the DTES were and how they would address them. What was interesting to me is that Geller’s perceptions of the bad things about the DTES were not the same as the 30 people at our workshop. According to these residents, who live in SROs, social housing, co-op housing, and on the street, the two worst things in the DTES were entrification/condos and police brutality—two things that the average person who motors through the area on the way to work probably wouldn’t even think of.

To deal with the gentrification issue, they suggested that we “lobby like crazy,” and get the city to agree that condos couldn’t be allowed unless affordable housing was built. Maybe then developers would add their voice to the need for social housing in the


DTES. They also wanted to create a community story to educate developers and buyers and to have community solidarity to push all levels of government to provide more social housing.

To deal with police brutality our community leaders suggested that mandatory police training should include how to keep peace, empathy, and a shift to valuing life rather than property. They wanted Native peacekeepers on the streets. And they suggested that DTES residents could train the police about the community. One person said police should be given a list of people who are severely addicted and mentally ill and told DO NOT ARREST because they will be further traumatized by choke holds and jail.

Media and photographers were also listed as bad things about the neighbourhood. Folks at the workshop thought the public perception (that Geller referred to) was driven by the media who unfairly portray all the bad things about the area, and not the ways people are struggling for changes that will improve the community. One person suggested, bitterly, “We could be the media and show up at their houses and film their kids.” Others said residents could lead more DTES tours, strike a committee to react to misinformation, write letters to the editor, and educate people on the street about their rights to privacy.

As for drug dealers and users, people phrased that category of bad things as “forcing drug users outside.” It was a priority for 3 people. Their suggestions included open more Insites and smoke rooms; more harm reduction which they said was education to care for yourself, better supplies to stop spreading disease, ending poverty and homelessness which makes people vulnerable, getting rid of the black market for drugs and opening up culturally appropriate centers where people can practice their traditional cultures and values.

Another bad thing about the neighbourhood that people mentioned more than drug issues was security guards who force homeless people to move and harass shoppers and pedestrians in Gastown and Tinseltown stores. There was anger about the Business Improvement Associations when they lobby against desperately needed new housing and hire the security guards. Systemic poverty, racism and harassment and non-resident drinkers who spill out of bars and hassle and abuse residents were also on the list of bad things, with some suggestions for how to deal with them.

CCAP will be making a full report on our consultation process soon. Check back to read it here.

Unlimited condo development could wipe out good things about DTES

Carnegie Community Action Project
Press Release:

September 16, 2009, Vancouver, B.C: Most of the things low-income residents like about the DTES could be wiped out if the city continues to allow unlimited condo development in the area. That’s the conclusion of a report on community mapping released today by CCAP.

The democratic mapping process involved over 200 residents at 18 DTES community hubs. Participants were asked to draw their most meaningful place in the DTES on a blank map. Then they were asked where the best housing and best place to get food and shop were. Everyone was asked why they chose the places they chose and extensive notes of their answers were taken.

The DTES is a real community where low-income people feel accepted. “We’re on no levels here and I don’t know anywhere else where that happens,” said one of the 200 participants. The mapping process also showed that DTES residents like being able to get the things they need without using a car or transit (which many can’t afford), and can volunteer and participate in numerous organizations to help others and themselves.
assets table
The DTES is also a place where people who live in some of the 5000 social housing units feel that they have a strong base and network of support, where the green spaces are greatly appreciated, and where there is a lot of empathy for people who are homeless or have health and addiction issues. And it is a place where many people who experience human rights violations work for social justice.

“Developers and politicians are always telling residents what is needed in this community,” said Wendy Pedersen, a DTES resident and one of the co-authors. “With this report it’s the residents who are saying what’s good about the community and what needs to be preserved.”

The mapping report challenges the unproven theory that only neighbourhoods that include rich and poor can be healthy. “Mixing rich and poor is already creating a clash, rather than a mix in the DTES,” said Pedersen. “Some condo residents are already organizing to keep out services and housing that low income people need,”

“More condo development will increase land prices and taxes, pushing out stores that cater to low income people and increasing hotel rents. Upscale businesses exclude residents with prices and security guards,” added Pedersen.

Mapping participants were also asked about unsafe and uncomfortable places in the DTES. These included gentrifying places where people felt excluded, like condos, Gastown and Tinseltown. Mappers also said they feared violence from a number of sources including police, non-resident drinkers, security guards, predators and drug dealers.

The mapping project is one phase of CCAP’s process to develop a vision, some principles and strategies for achieving a safe, secure, affordable, and authentic low income neighbourhood in the DTES. ***