Sunday, November 21, 2004


Underbelly News
Downtown Eastside


Why is it that the economic development initiatives in the Downtown Eastside, has had the effect of pissing money down the drain!

Here are just a few examples. I'll start with United We Can. UWC has always maintained that their recycling facility puts a million dollars back into the community. This is pure nonsense. Returning $5 or $10 dollars into the hands of binners goes directly to supporting crime. The five or ten dollars returned to the binner from their exploits goes from their hand into the greedy hands of the drug traffickers. Since when did supporting drug trafficking become part of economic development revitalization?

Other areas that the federal government need to re-view is their contribution of funding to renovate the SRO hotels. Councilor Jim Green keeps championing this as an ideal model to solve homelessness. Men outnumber Women in the DE, two to one. This is mainly because the SRO's traditionally have been a last resort housing option for men. Women are not safe in SRO's and do not typically live in them. Yet, this emphasis by Jim Green on converting SRO's and letting the non-profits run them has created a disaster. Rampant drug use, violence and danger are accepted norms in the SRO's. This is unacceptable. Does Councilor Green expect women, seniors and families to actually live this way--to live in fear and among criminals?

If Jim Green hasn't soured you yet, surely this next scenario might. The Downtown Eastside Residents Association method of addressing homelessness has been to hire a loud mouth idiot who intimidates and uses fear tactics against people. First, DERA builds dog houses and claims that these dog structures are an option for homeless people. Next they reopen an apartment building which had previously been declared uninhabitable and unsafe. They re-opened this building without obtaining the necessary permits. Next they invited everyone with a drug problem on the street to come live there. Police constantly are called to the building. Women won't go near it. Now, DERA wants to warehouse drug addicts in the basement of one of their other buildings. Tellier Tower tenants consequently, are rebelling against DERA. They don't want any more criminals or drug traffickers in their midst.

Its long past due that the federal government demands a forensic audit of all public funding going into the Downtown Eastside.

Economic Development programs shouldn't be left in the hands of unaccountable non-profit service agencies. I hate to be spiteful but many of these groups are doing nothing for the betterment of the community. If the different levels of government are serious about creating a balanced community, why do they continue to fund programs which only sustain the open drug market in the Downtown Eastside?

My beliefs around economic development policy is that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way policy makers think. Instead of funding programs that are unsustainable, they should look toward private business to help solve the neighborhood's economic woes. Creating real sustainable initiatives means first creating healthy people and a healthy community. The best way to reach this goal is to create sustainable jobs. Government should not be in the business of business. Allow private enterprise to create the jobs. Leave the service agencies to do advocacy.

Programs and projects must not be implemented which exacerbates poverty. I know politicians and policy makers desire to do the right thing but creating dependency has had no positive benefits to the residents of the Downtown Eastside. The DE remains a neighborhood in crises and chaos.

Drug addiction and service agencies have become the accepted norms of development down here. Unhealthy industries of poverty and drug trafficking, as a result, has created despair and danger. Its up to different levels of government to fix this mess. The aforementioned are not economic development initiatives we should view as being positive beneficial ones.

A Prime Ministerial summit on the VA, I believe, is in order. Allow the DE residents, children, women, families and seniors to inform the politicians and policy makers what their needs and hopes are. Most importantly, let the residents tell government how the Vancouver Agreement has failed them.

The feds need to immediately review Vancouver Agreement programs which only encourage and foster disorder. Many of these programs have created an absolute mess. I'd say, start by halting the public taxpayers dollars going into the Vancouver Agreement. The Vancouver Agreement is up for evaluation in the spring. Its time to stop the insanity. Instead, offer hope by considering implementation of enforced treatment and detox programs.

The creation and sustainability of a healthy community requires dispensing healthy doses of independent rather than interdependent programming.

Jamie Lee Hamilton