What do Downtown Eastside Residents have in common?

What do you think is the main thing that DTES parents like about the DTES community? When CCAP asked a group of sex workers this question, they guessed things like “the school,” and “the playground.” When they learned that the top thing parents like about their community is: “Kids learning compassion and kindness towards others and open mindedness,” they were quite taken aback and moved to tears. When parents found out how the sex workers responded, they were moved as well.

In the spring of 2011 CCAP organized a series of workshops between different groups of Downtown Eastside residents to find out what we all have in common and how we can build community between groups we sometimes think of as separate. The story above is one example of what we found; we’re all closer than we think.

We asked questions to get at these insights and then shared these insights with different groups to build solid and meaningful community relations and solidarity between marginalized people who may not otherwise have opportunities to connect and learn from each other.

Learning like this can help reinforce the values of this community as a place of acceptance and help to preserve its future.

This is what happened during CCAP’s small project to bring together 4 groups of people to talk about community issues separately, and then find common ground together. The 4 groups who participated were sex workers, GBLT2IQ, single parents and Chinese speaking seniors. The project finished in June.

Each group met separately and talked about the good things in the DTES community as well as the bad things. Then they met and discussed common ground. All 4 groups agreed that there was a strong sense of community in the DTES and that we need more good social housing.

As a result of the project:

• A very interesting list of good and bad things about the community was created by marginalized sectors of the DTES and this can be used to build better understanding, tolerance, policies etc

• Four peer leaders were mentored, gained more skills in community organizing and can become more influential community leaders in the future;

• One of the peer leaders published an article related in a local newspaper related to the results of the project;

• Everyone who participated, including the coordinator, has a better understanding of who is interested to talk about their community which is an important first step in developing leadership in marginalized sectors of the DTES;

• Some of the 40 participants are staying in touch with CCAP organizers and already participating in events without actively encouraging them. They could become influential community leaders in the future.