Monday, November 22, 2004


Underbelly News
Downtown Eastside


Hi All

Posted below is a response to my latest blog entry called Vancouver Agreement Mess. I thought it was a passionate response and that's why I'm posting it. But first I want to clarify my position.

A few points I want to make are as follows. When I was a youngster, growing up in Raymur project I would go door to door asking neighbors for cans and bottles to take back to recycling depots. As a child growing up in poverty this gave me small amounts of spending money for my school needs. At no time did I have to go picking through garbage. The recycling depots of that era were run by private business enterprise. Also there wasn't the drug problem back then that we have today.

Now almost four decades later, we have United We Can (UWC) recycling depot. Often UWC has said, it doesn't concern itsself whether the public money they dispense to scavengers goes into feeding drug habits. They justify this position with claims that what is being done for the environment is of greater importance and greater good to society.

This also was the same response I received.

I don't believe it responsible of us as a society if we don't challenge ourselves by tackling the escalating social problems in our city. Many of the individuals who are scavengers do not have many options in life. They are consumed by drug addiction. The recycling program at United We Can caters to those with drug problems or mental health issues. I wish these people didn't have the difficulties in life that they do. However, wouldn't it be better, if we took care of these unfortunate people by spending more money on health programs for them. Wouldn't it be better if people were given a better standard of life so there wasn't the need to settle for something less. Something that ultimately in the longer term hurts them..

My concern remains that programs which sustain the open drug market in the Downtown Eastside do not offer society a greater benefit. Having out of control drug addiction isn't healthy for society or the environment. The costs we endure is skyrocketing.

The argument put forward by proponents of UWC and others that this is a cost we should endure since the benefit to our environment is greater--is irresponsible thinking. Supporting programs such as UWC sends an awful message. Going through others garbage and which may potentially be disease prone is not an ideal way of sustainability. We shouldn't embrace this way of life. I think our environment would be much better off if we spent our scarce resources on education, health programs and job creation!

Jamie Lee Hamilton

Dear Jamie Lee,
This article has many good points and a couple of weak points.
1. Binning is not a good job, but it does give people a bit more income and help the planet. It's not UWC's fault how the binners spend that money. I'm sure some goes for food. Of course, they shouldn't spend any of it on dope, but you're going to have that problem whether they get it from UWC, welfare, sweeping the streets for city pay, cleaning grafitti for a private company, or any other source. The Green Party policy should be, I think, to raise the deposit to 50 cents a can, and simultaneously to provide better jobs for all who need them.
2. Yes, jobs, of course, as you say! That's the much harder part because the problem is throughout the hemisphere, not just the DE. But, yes, keep stressing jobs, and, in the meantime, fair welfare rates and eligibility.