100 Block Rock & Community Consultation

The 100 Block of East Hastings has been at the heart of the DTES fight against gentrification and for dignified, social housing. It has been the center of community battles over safe injection sites and against the worst slumlords in the city. The Regent and Balmoral still stand as empty monuments while the city wrestles over what to do with the property and thousands continue to sleep on the streets.

In preparation for the City of Vancouver’s upcoming decision on the future of the hundred block of East Hastings, CCAP and the SROC hosted a Community consultation.
Named the 100 Block Rock because of the atmosphere, volunteers gave out hundreds of plates of food, took note of peoples ideas and invited the community to dream of what they thought should be done with the stretch of street.

Ideas included an outdoor community lounge, less clinical overdose prevention, more green spaces, memorial trees for those lost to the opioid crisis, low-income affordable housing and fewer lanes of traffic. It was amazing to see how thoughtful the community’s responses were, obviously they had been thinking about these ideas for a long time and had never been given the chance to be heard. It underlines the importance of including the community in these planning processes and trusting residents to know what is best for themselves.

Street Degree Graduation

The SRO Collaborative office has been happy to host recent classes of the Street Degree Program. Through the Street Degree, DTES residents are given the opportunity to train in core areas of harm reduction and overdose response. They offer courses like advanced overdose response, train the trainer, pain management and cultural safety to people that live the opioid crisis everyday.

The TORO program is a big supporter of the Street Degree Program and the TOROs are encouraged and resourced to take classes and track their progress towards graduation. Several TOROs have already completed the program and some have moved on to be able toinstruct the classes. This is all part of the TORO program’s philosophy to not only reduce harm but to teach the TOROs life skills that they can use outside of their roles as overdose responders.

This week was an especially important class. One of our TOROs had completed the program and was honoured with a song and graduation celebration.

We had local indigenous knowledge keepers and singers in the room to mark the occasion. It was a great opportunity to reflect on the benefits that participating in the TORO program and harm reduction organizing more generally has on the DTES community.

SRO-C & TORO Family Sweat

A big part of our mission at the SRO Collaborative and TORO is to reconnect the people of the DTES to the culture and history of our neighbourhood. Through the recognition of our neighbours as complete human beings with hobbies, faiths, families, and so on; we can begin to heal as a community.

So many of the tenants that we work with are indigenous, some from nations far away. While we encourage those that can to reconnect to their roots and traditional teachings, it isn’t always an option for some. For whatever reason they have lost their connection to their family or nation, but that doesn’t mean they have to be completely cut off from culture.

We have recently been so lucky to be introduced to the Vancouver Two Spirit and Friends Sweat Lodge. The lodge is made available by Elder Sandy Laframboise, Butterfly Woman, with permission of the George Family and Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Elder Sandy is very interested in ways of adapting the traditional teachings to make the experience more accessible to folks still using substances and coping with addiction.

This is only one small part of our commitment to centering cultural practices in our harm reduction work. We have already made bannock and braided bracelets in the office and our community has been involved with making drums and song groups.

We are learning very clearly that culture is keys to the healing process. We look forward to continuing to find new ways of including cultural practice in our community organizing work.

 

To keep up to date on these amazing cultural experiences and for the chance to participate in them with us follow TORO on Facebook.

For Sale: Pacific Rooms

The SRO Collaborative has discovered that the SRO hotel at 507 Main Street, Pacific Rooms, has been put on the market. The owners are asking for $4,500,000 for the 35 units.

The brochure highlights”stable existing income with rental upside.” This is the trendy way for developers to advertise increasing rents by displacing current tenants.

We are very worried about the tenants that live there now. Their low-income housing is some of the last remaining places in the city for them to go and we have to fight to preserve it.

If you or anyone you know lives in Pacific Rooms or any other SRO that goes on sale, contact the SRO Collaborative for more information on your rights or help with your situation.

Link to the Sale Listing here

What a Week

The SRO Collaborative was super busy for such a short week:

On Tuesday we marched with the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis. It started outside of Insite near Hastings and Columbia and proceeded to the Art Gallery.

There were speeches, floats, banners, chanting and it was a dry and clear day. Some of the TOROs marched with us and carried an amazing ‘Clean Supply Now’ banner that was painted in our office.

Wednesday was the William’s family feast. It was a celebration of their family’s connection to their Kwakwakawakw culture. Our friend Robert blanketed his family members and was honoured by his community.

There was so much food, they fed the entire Downtown Eastside. A Log Drum was carved specially for the feast. The songs filled the hearts of those in attendance after the food filled their bellies.

Even with all of these events we were still able to get all of our outreach and organizing done for the week. We can’t get distracted from all of the important work we do. Luckily we get a bit of a break for Easter long weekend, but some f us were still busy at still more events.

The Right To Remain was at the Hanami Festival at Oppenheimer Park. The areas history of Japanese culture was on display with rice dishes and beautiful cherry blossom blooms. WePress was there hosting a stamp making workshop and we were able to put our Haiku skills to good use. The Right to Remain uses Haiku as a research methodology another way to record the lives of folk living in the Downtown Eastside.