(cross-posted on rabble.ca)
I think I'm losing track of the days - it seems like its still day 4. All I know is its colder and wetter today and many people at Main and Hastings were edgier. Turns out that cheque day is next week - so many folks are at that point of no return - money gone. People look hungry and intense. I got the first negative comment - racist so I won't repeat it. We ended up sharing the tent cover with multiple dealers, (they've kept a small distance ‘til now on the shared sidewalk). It’s interesting watching the small deals go down - fast and efficient. Heard many hard stories - like Peter from the Dene nation - he described to us how Fort McMurray and his people are ruined. He signed his message as Dene Warrior.
After we'd packed up the tent (thankyou Kim for helping out today) we went upstairs to 3rd floor of Carnegie and looked at the photo from 30 years ago of me, Bruce, and baby Lief in a stroller, the day before Carnegie "officially" opened as a newly renovated community centre for the Downtown Eastside. It took us (including Jean Swanson who was pivotal in this too) about 4 or 5 years to get the grand old building saved from the wrecking ball, and money allocated to turn it into the place it is today. People still call it the Living Room of the Downtown Eastside. Each floor was busy today as it is 365 days a year. Thankyou Sharon for putting together such a great photo and memorabilia showcase.
Ok - enough of memory lane (though the 30th anniversary of Carnegie is coming up a few days from now). What's cool is that the centre is a beehive of activity - a library, gym, classrooms, eating area, a small theatre, and home to the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) that is a creative, grass roots group that engages people in awareness about the community and how to improve bad housing, get more, better housing and prevent people from being thrown out by new development pressures. Today people were practicing their upcoming presentations to Vancouver City Council about future development in the area and their concerns about high rises that could be allowed causing further instability for low-income residents. All the more reason that new social housing needs to be built. The old hotels and rooming houses - fast disappearing - are completely inadequate as permanent housing for people.
I have to say - although I'm pretty immersed in the Hunger Strike Relay to End Homelessness, and what's going on here, keep thinking about what's happening Haiti and the on-going disaster that is being endured by millions of people there. All our efforts are required to get support and aid to Haiti. I've made a donation to Doctors without Borders (http://www.msf.ca/news-media/news/2010/01/haiti-update) - and there are many other reliable organizations you can send your donations to.