By Ivan Drury
Originally published in The Volcano
On May 16th, Vancouver City Council passed a motion to support the United We Can bottle depot to move from its long-time home at the 000 block of East Hastings to an industrial area south of Terminal Avenue. The Vancouver Police Department celebrated the move as breaking up “crime” on a public street and said that the new location would be less likely to become a gathering place because it is isolated from the surrounding community. City Hall will be supporting United We Can’s rent at the new location with money from the Housing Endowment Fund because, although it will not be providing housing, it will be “revitalizing the Downtown Eastside”.
The move will bring two major changes for low-income Downtown Eastside residents.
First, the new United We Can will be far from the heart of the community so they will also put drop-off stations in the DTES and around the city… except binners won’t be able to get cash there. They will have to accept “cashless vouchers.” That’s right, another double standard.
The second major change will be in the mood and feel in the heart of the community as the bottle depot block is cleared out and another public space visible to the commuter scene is sanitized and the presence of low-income people removed. The Downtown East went down to the bottle depot block and spoke with some regulars there about what the break-up of the block means to them.
Moving the bottle depot is more gentrification. They want to clear the street for fancy stores and people with money. It means we won’t have a place for our people. We’ll get pushed and squeezed out, what do you call it? Displaced. They want to squeeze us out.
This block feels like home. It doesn’t feel like home in the industrial area at Main and 3rd. Home is where I know where I fit in among people and where people fit in with my life. I know who is my friend and who is not. It’s home.
I don’t think the bottle depot should be moved at all because everyone is just naturally here. It’s home.
Everybody gets along, hangs out and looks after each other. That’s what I mean by home.
The city is trying to get everybody from the Downtown Eastside out of this area. They want to move us to another location probably where they don’t want to sell property.
I don’t think it’s going to happen. We all get along here and we’re not going to let any more people get lost from our community.
It used to be nice here with Only Seafoods and souvenir shops, they’re all closed now. It would be nice to have it so the visitors could come. But it should not be expensive so there’s different places for visitors where regular residents can’t go. They shouldn’t be expensive, just regular stores like there used to be with White Spot.
They’re pushing our people out. I say absolutely not. It has to be apartments affordable for our people.
I’d like to see the sidewalk scene cleaned up so we have some space to socialize and get along without the garbage and needles. We need a healthy place to socialize, without the police harassment. We need the space to nurture ourselves like we need apartments we can afford with cooking and places to shower. We need to get rid of the SROs.
I watch people try to take advantage of the seniors on pension day and I watch and make sure it doesn’t happen. I say, hey leave the elders alone. If we can’t be together then who is going to look out for the elders?
Everyone has each other’s back down here on the block. If we see someone fighting we protect them. If we see kids coming we say “baby on the block!” and everyone acts respectful. Everyone needs to mingle with their own kind.
What space is safe for women nowadays? It’s not safe on Granville for a native woman. It’s not safe on the West Side. Surrey is really unsafe for women, I’m scared to go there. But here on the block I have family and they get my back. Who else will look out for us but others who live in poverty?