Where: Oppenheimer Park, 400 block Powell Street
When: Friday, July 18 6:00 a.m. – near the totem pole
July 17, 2008, Vancouver, BC: Police continue to ticket and confiscate belongings of “homeless” campers at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside every morning. The sweeps typically happen between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. and campers were threatened today that multiple tickets will turn into arrests tomorrow.
Neighbours are concerned about this and not for the usual reasons the public would expect. Kathy Walker, a parent of 5 and resident of Jackson Ave Co-op along with other supporters will sleep out with the campers tonight. She said: “The park is a much quieter and safer place when people are camping here, it becomes their home, they look out for one another, they clean up the park. These are our neighbours and we want the city to exempt Oppenheimer Park from this by-law that makes homelessness a crime.”
With a virtual zero % vacancy rate, closure and upscaling of many local residential hotels, 40,000 turnaways from shelters over a 9 month period in the area, the campers themselves wonder where they are expected to go. Brian Humchitt and his partner Tina Eastman were ticketed this morning. They said: “We’re homeless in our own land. We are struggling to survive in our home which is our tent.”
Wendy Pedersen, parent of 2, resident of the DTES and organizer for the Carnegie Community Action Project, says “these tickets will turn into warrants. This by-law is the perfect tool to aid the police to move people where they want them to go before the 2010 games – out of the Downtown Eastside. We need some social housing announced in this neighbourhood not more crackdowns on people with none.”
PIVOT Legal Society is collecting tickets and planning to contest them in court.
A convergence of concerned neighbours is planned for 5:00 a.m. Friday morning and a press conference will be held at 6:00 a.m. Planning is underway to continue the pressure.