Poverty, Criminalization and Health – An Update

VANDU Public Awareness Campaign

 

In our show on May 26 we told the story of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users campaign against ticketing for vending, jaywalking and public urination in the Downtown Eastside. (http://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/peoples-health-radio/2011/05/poverty-criminalization-and-health)

 

At that point 50 VANDU members had recently delivered a letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson calling on him to act on public health recommendations on these issues and stop criminalizing people with tickets. We followed up with a mass meeting where we put our demands to Councillor Kerry Jang and we gave him a month to get back to us.

 

Now, after 2 1/2 years of hard campaigning which included demonstrations, pickets, letter writing, disrupting council meetings, studies with the city, public outreach and education, etc, etc we’ve won some victories.

 

On Tuesday July 26 Vancouver City Council voted to implement a 6 block 30 km zone in our neighbourhood to improve pedestrian safety. This was one of the key recommendations of the VANDU pedestrian safety study “We’re All Pedestrians”: http://pedestriansafety.vandu.org/blog/?p=151

 

Additionally the city has committed to extending hours (until midnight) at public toilets in the DTES. It’s not the 24 hour access that we were looking for, but its a start.

 

And the community initiated and controlled street market continues to go strong. The City says they are looking at creating a site where the market can run 7 days/ week. This will potentially create new challenges, because there is strong commitment from the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council to keep the grassroots and democratic character of the market, but it is an exciting possibility nonetheless.

 

The struggle with the Police and the City around tickets and criminalization continues, and we need more community controlled public health institutions and measures, but the victories are exciting, particularly because they are so clearly the outcome of a persistent, organized and principled grassroots campaign.

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