Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, July 28, 2008: A new report from the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) shows that Downtown Eastside residents like their community and have a remarkable consensus on what is needed to improve their lives (click on the cover image below to download report).
“Nothing about us without us” is the name of the 20 page interim report on the first two stages of CCAP’s visioning project for mostly low income residents in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). CCAP talked to almost 300 DTES residents in its vision sessions and had 655 people fill out questionnaires about the community. The report is filled with quotes from DTES residents about crucial issues in their community. Most of the people who participated in the vision sessions and questionnaire live in hotel rooms, social housing or are homeless.
The results of the two processes show that the overwhelming majority of low-income residents agree that the DTES is a real community where people know each other and feel comfortable and at home. “Here people stick up for each other and take care of each other,” said one vision session participant. Residents like the people, the community, the services and the non-judgmental nature of the neighbourhood. An astounding ninety-five percent of questionnaire respondents said they would like to continue to live in the DTES if they had safe, secure housing.
Residents also had remarkable agreement on what is needed to improve their lives in the DTES. About 86 percent thought welfare rates should be raised to about $1300 a month, (the federal market basket poverty line). Eighty-eight percent thought government should build affordable housing in the community. “I’m tired of “having to choose between types of bad housing,” said one woman, “mice running in mattresses versus never clean washrooms versus bedbugs.” Eighty-seven percent wanted more alcohol and drug treatment services.
Answers to several questions about condo development in the community reveal that over two-thirds of residents don’t want condos dominating the neighbourhood, and are afraid that poor bashing will increase if this happens.
Many folks in the vision sessions wanted to get the message out to the broader city that the DTES is “more than 4 blocks of hell. We have creativity and intelligence.”
The report was written by Wendy Pedersen and Jean Swanson with help from CCAP volunteers and the Low-Income Land Use and Housing Coalition (LILAHC), a coalition of DTES residents and groups who want redevelopment of the DTES to be based on the voices and vision of its current low income majority.