Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FEAR of the UNWASHED in our CITY?

Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

FEAR of the UNWASHED in our CITY?

There has been conflict arising from the Vancouver Park Board plans to close Grandview Park for one year as they embark on the re-development of this popular east end park.

This park has been home to a number of homeless people and they are quite upset that they are being pushed out of their homes. A number of these vulnerable citizens feel safe in this park which has a longstanding history of harmonious culture.

Enter Darrell Zimmerman, a homeless individual who plays the saxophone. I got to know Darrell in 2002 when we were both involved in a Headlines Theatre project. While Darrell can be annoying and sometimes difficult, he doesn't though in my opinion pose a danger to anyone. In fact Mr Zimmerman often attended council meetings but then Mayor now Senator Larry Campbell often cajoled Mr Zimmerman and showed his softer side when dealing or being confronted by Darrell.

A few weeks back Darrell showed up at a Park board meeting and he was quite animated when a speaker made remarks concerning Grandview Park. The speaker obviously had a differing opinion than Mr Zimmerman's and sparks flew. Darrell began cursing and swearing and called an approaching Park ranger Yogiberra. He was evicted from the meeting.

At last night's meeting of Park board Darrell was outside the Park board offices. He saw Commissioner Loretta Woodcock getting out of her car and apparently began engaging Ms Woodcock near the entrance to the Park board building . Ms Woodcock claims Mr Zimmerman attempted to stop her entry into the meeting and somehow the end result was Mr Zimmerman being arrested.

I picked up on this story today after Georgia Straight reporter Matt Burrows wrote an account of the happenings on the online version of the Straight.

The Georgia Straight story though confuses me.

In it Commissioner Woodcock states she has never been threatened before and this implies there was a threat made. See http://www.straight.com I contacted Commissioner Woodcock today and asked her why Mr Zimmerman wasn't charged with uttering threats and her answer was because he didn't. Also something else significant is missing from this story and that is another Commissioner, the Vice Chair of the Board Sarah Blyth went outside and talked at length to Mr Zimmerman.

If Mr Zimmerman was so out of control as this article seems to present why did the Vice-Chair stay outside with him for so long? In fact, was he ever really a threat?

Mr Zimmerman was charged with mischief and causing a disturbance. Commissioner Woodcock in the article claims Mr Zimmerman keyed her car but in fact she did not witness this.

This man is homeless and is obviously agitated because he is being forced from his home in Grandview Park and perhaps he is acting out irrationally probably due to great stress but shouldn't we have some compassion for our homeless?

As re-development increases in our City we will see more of this conflict and everybody deserves to be heard regardless of status in society. Hurling insults or swearing isn't the preferred way of engaging public officials but our homeless are in survival mode and somehow we need to make allowances for their sometimes erratic behavior in order that they be heard.

I sincerely hope that this Park board doesn't become fearful of the unwashed in our City and further denies them the right to be heard.

Jamie Lee Hamilton


At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize this is difficult for some of our homeless, BUT it's just like the re-vamping of Oppenheimer Park.
Would everyone not like to have a new park?

We can never have a nice park, which needs re-vamping, because some homeless live there?

They can live there after the re-vamping too, can't they?
I wish there were no homeless, but there are.

Park needs remodeling, then lets do it!

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Jamie Lee Hamilton said...

Hi Anonymous, yes I agree re-vamping our Parks isn't necessarily a bad idea as long as everyone is on board supporting the changes. I'm not sure re-designs of Parks always improves Parks though. In fact Victory Square has a different look which is boring and the stage which was put in is never used except for the Labour Day long weekend. Plus the walk-through trail from Pender down to Hastings is always blocked by people sitting on the steps which were put in on the Northeast corner of the Park. Plus way more drug trafficking going on there now than there ever was before. Just ask the police.

I guess some people want boutique parks but not all citizens want these.

Good point about the homeless living in the park after the new park is completed in one year but where do they go in the meantime? This is their social space as well.

At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's true, whee do they go?

Unfortunately, they will have to find somewhere else so the park can be beautified.

There was outcry as well when Oppenhiemer Park started its' revamping... now that it's open again, people have come back. Go look on any day.

The crappy park is now really nice and the residents are using it. Which is what a park really is for right? For use by all, not just the homeless...sorry.


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