Gregor Robertson promises social housing at DTES tent city
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson stood on the steps of the Carnegie Centre at Main and West Hastings on Tuesday and made a big promise to people living in a nearby tent city on the Downtown Eastside.
“We’ve come to an agreement to make sure that the 58 West Hastings site is 100 per cent social housing,” Robertson announced, noting that the rezoning of the lot could be pushed through by 2017, while completion of the project will take several years.
Since July 9, more than 150 people have been living in 74 tents spread across the site. Many of the residents are living with mental health and addiction issues.
"We're not allowed in the alleys. We're not allowed in the parks. We're not allowed in the cubby holes. Where do you want us?" asked Samona Marsh, who lives in the tent city.
After meeting with people from the encampment for more than an hour, Robertson said he would like to see 300 units on the site specifically for people on social assistance.
People who live in the tent city say they appreciate the commitment, but are waiting to see if the city will back up their words with concrete action.
"Could you imagine having to carry everything you own on your back? Or wake up in the morning and have the cops there with the cleaning crew and throwing [your things] in the garbage saying it's trash?" said Marsh.
Robertson says the city has asked both the provincial and federal governments to partner on a total of 20 new social housing sites.
"Right now our shelters are full - it's the middle of summer and shelters here in Vancouver are full, which is unbelievable,” said Robertson. “We need to have more support from the B.C. government."
No one from the BC Liberals was available to comment on the Mayor’s request for help - for this tent city or for the other proposed social housing locations.
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Ben Miljure