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Fellow Citizens, you should know about this:

Many of you know of the infamous Oppenheimer Park in my ‘hood, the Downtown Eastside. It’s a pretty grim park, frankly. I only go there rarely and I don’t let my dogs walk there because of the needles. And other stuff. See image below.

People without a house and nowhere to couch surf hang out there in the day and sleep there in cardboard and cheap sleeping bags at night. Not my kinda crowd, not easy people to be around, and easy to dismiss.

But this next part is insane:

Yesterday morning at approximately 4:30am the police took action against the homeless living in the park. People were ticketed and were allowed to leave with their belongings- those who didn’t have shopping carts or other means of carrying their belongings had everything loaded into a garbage truck that had followed the police into the park.

The police stated they intend to continue this action on coming nights.

I ask you:

1. What the hell is the point of ticketing them? TICKETING the HOMELESS?

2. Exactly who among us is upset that we can’t use the park at 4:30am because people without homes are sleeping there? Why, precisely, was it so imperative that they be moved along at that ungodly hour?

3. Where, exactly, do we as a society expect them to move along to? At 4:30 in the morning? Without a place that is their own?

My fellow citizens, and especially those in Vancouver,

if you, like me

  • have a place to call home (esp. us property owners)
  • enjoy enough abundance that we can delight in getaways for the weekend (ironically, away from our own homes)
  • possibly struggle with so much stuff that we actually store our excess

if you, like me want, to live in CANADA, not some Dickensian horror,

for Christ’s sake (perhaps literally), here is some action you can take:

  1. Hold your politicians to account. This is not about the police. It’s about what kind of society your politicians are shaping. E-mail the following with your thoughts on the matter: Mayor Sam Sullivan, [email protected] Peter Ladner [email protected] ; Kim Capri [email protected] ; Suzanne Anton [email protected] or the entire council at [email protected]
  2. Inform yourself further – easily – by things like joining the facebook group Streams of Justice. This is a faith-based group but you will be comfortable hearing about and joining their activities no matter your own faith or no faith at all. Or, browse and keep checking Blackbird’s photo documentaries on homelessness in Vancouver on Flickr.
  3. If you are ready for some more radical action, I am considering sleeping outside myself as an act of solidarity. Not sure when, not sure where, but I hope to have my podcasting skills up to speed and contribute to the documentary of what happens at 4:30am in Vancouver. If you may be interested in joining me, either twitter me (money coach is my handle) or do a bit of research to figure out how to contact me (because of the nature of this post, I am not going to publish my e-mail or I’ll get tons of hate-on stuff)

We don’t have to settle for a lame-ass city, fellow citizens. But our politicians need to know we’re not OK with this.


The park in question:


Photo Credit: The Blackbird

update – this press release:
July 17, 2008, Vancouver, BC:  Police continue to ticket and confiscate belongings of “homeless” campers at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside every morning.  The sweeps typically happen between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. and campers were threatened today that multiple tickets will turn into arrests tomorrow.

Neighbours are concerned about this and not for the usual reasons the public would expect.  Kathy Walker, a parent of 5 and resident of a house across the street from the park, will sleep out with the campers tonight.  She said: “The park has been very much under control all year.  People are quiet, they clean up after themselves and they support each other.  They put away their tents before the park opens at 8:00 a.m.  These people are part of a community.  We want Oppenheimer exempt from this unfair by-law.”

With a virtual zero % vacancy rate, closure and upscaling of many local residential hotels, 40,000 turnaways from shelters over a 9 month period in the area, the campers themselves wonder where they are expected to go.  Brian Humchitt and his partner Tina Eastman were ticketed this morning.  They said:  “We’re homeless in our own land.  We are struggling to survive in our home which is our tent.”

Wendy Pedersen, parent of 2, resident of the DTES and organizer for the Carnegie Community Action Project, says “these tickets will turn into warrants.  This by-law is the perfect tool to aid the police to move people where they want them to go before the 2010 games – out of the Downtown Eastside.”

PIVOT Legal Society is collecting tickets and planning to contest them in court.

A convergence of concerned neighbours is planned for 5:00 a.m. Friday morning and a press conference will be held at 6:00 a.m.  Planning is underway to continue the pressure.


Where:  Oppenheimer Park, 400 block Powell Street
When:   Friday, July 18 6:00 a.m. – near the totem pole

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Jeannette

    Wow. I live in the hood too, and am appalled! Just read about this now, otherwise I would have made an effort to get up and be there this morning…



    Jul 18, 2008
  2. Robin

    The pollice are maybe doing this because of the up coming Powell street festival. Powell street festival occupies the park August 2-3 and they might be preparing the park for the event by getting rid of the locals. http://www.powellstreetfestival.com


    Jul 18, 2008
  3. Mike

    Thanks for bringing this to everybody’s attention.


    Jul 18, 2008
  4. Great post — thanks. Keep on it! Any updates from this morning?



    Jul 18, 2008
  5. Jackie

    Frankly, as a Vancouver citizen I don’t want ANYBODY sleeping in any park at any time. Once you let these people in, you’ll never get them to leave. And frankly, if there are no latrines, do you really want all that human waste building up near their “living” quarters.
    Police only enforce laws we’ve put in place for a reason. That is not a legitimate camp site, and therefore they should be ticketed and made to move.


    Jul 18, 2008
  6. @Jackie, I agree: humans should NEVER have to sleep in parks, and they should NEVER have the indignity of having to search for basic human needs of any kind. Please inform your politicians that you expect better than a society that only provides parks – and now, apparently not even that.

    @Robin: I only wish it were as benign as preparing for a a festival (although I don’t know how much I could enjoy any festival that displaces people). I think it’s a much bigger festival coming, that is inciting these action.

    Hi to others! – I’ll keep posting on this in amidst my usual money posts.
    @Jeanette special hi, neighbour. There will likely be other opportunities and in the meantime, please do e-mail our city hall.


    Jul 18, 2008
  7. I’ll start off by saying I’ve never been to that park and don’t really know where it is. That said, I have to agree with Jackie on this one. Nancy, even you admitted that you wouldn’t go into that park because of the needles and other items lying around. If drugs are happening there, I think the police are doing their job to clean it up (I’m not a big fan of the police either for that matter).

    I also do agree with you that something needs to be done with the homeless, but the homeless also need to want to helped. We definitely need more programs out there.

    This also brings a similar debate with hunger; do you just send them food, or do you teach them to grow their own.

    Just some thoughts.


    Jul 18, 2008
  8. @GusF hey there – I’m glad you dropped by 🙂 Thanks. Parks being cleaned up of needles is one thing; homeless people being woken and ticketed in the middle of the night is another thing, and it’s not like anyone stayed around to clean up the needles! AND, to be totally honest, I’ve *assumed* there are needles, but may be wrong on that – I’ve made a judgement.

    Re: wanting to be helped, agreed with you on that one. What hasn’t happened, is provision of help. That’s why providing a basic platform of a room of one’s own (a clean one!) is a passionate cause of mine. We haven’t done that yet. Who can say, how homeless people could respond and thrive with the bare minimum of a decent space to retreat to? We haven’t yet found that out. To me, providing the home is the equivalent of giving the fishing rod.


    Jul 18, 2008
  9. nick

    nancy, you sound like a very compassionate person. but does being compassionate actually help solve the problem, or does it just perpetuate and compound it?


    Jul 21, 2008
  10. @nick Thoughtful question you posed. I guess I would return the question directly: how has compassion had an influence on your own life? Has it had a life-giving, constructive influence, or has compassion perpetuated and compounded troublesome things you deal with (assuming you do – I certainly do)?


    Jul 21, 2008
  11. nick

    your question is a little general…but so was mine i suppose. it seems to me that supporting homeless people to sleep in oppenheimer park, while it can be considered compassionate, also rewards, reinforces and enables their current lifestyle. if you want help them help themselves, you need to make it more difficult for them to continue to do what they are doing now, not easier. You’re just making it easier for them to stay homeless and drug addicted.


    Jul 22, 2008
  12. @nick Thanks for coming back! 🙂 Well, first, we need to distinguish between the issues of “homelessness” and “addiction”. There is a correlation, but there’s an even bigger correlation between homelessness and mental illness, and homelessness and hellish-life-events that these individuals have simply not had the resources (internal or external) to meet, the way you and I may. It’s taken them down.

    I honestly can’t see how compounding the situation with sleep-deprivation and *nowhere* to settle for even a handful of hours at a time will help anyone make positive choices for themselves. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you were grubby, exhausted and on a sugar-low, but I have — and that was not a space in which I was likely to think clearly or logically! And that was just my teensy *taste* of what I imagine it must be like.

    And again, that’s even assuming it’s a case of these individuals having the capacity to make self-affirming “lifestyle choices”, which is not a given. A Vancouver city hall study estimates 70% of the homeless have a mental health issue (and as a side note, 80% are men with NO attachments to friends, family, community) If (?) that’s true, and we have $2.8 billion surplus 2007 tax dollars sitting in the BC Gov’t bank account, it seems to me we’re our priorities as a society are pretty messed up.

    If you’re interested, you can read the city hall study here: http://intraspec.ca/rr1appendix.pdf


    Jul 22, 2008
  13. Blair

    It’s time to quit enabling the situation downtown.

    I work there and pay huge taxes – I can’t live in the city, nor can I afford to.

    Why do these people have a “right” to squat where they want, and destroy the east side.

    Quit feeding the addiction and do something like finding an area outside of Vancouver where they can settle and learn to be productive.

    If they all have mental issues – set up a camp to treat them.

    Leaving them to sleep on the streets is inhumane in itself. Helping them shoot up and smoke crack is worse.


    Aug 06, 2008
  14. @Blair I sympathize with your frustration about not being able to afford a home in the very space in which you work. Affordable housing for all should be a priority for a society. A roof over the heads of every day employees as well as the down-and-outs is a basic, and I wish we prioritized that, for everyone, in addition to the double-professional-income/int’l investment crowd.
    I don’t think anyone is “helping them shoot up…” although I suppose some people perceive insite that way (my view is, it’s preventing people who shoot up anyways, from dying – something I think is worthy of my tax dollars, although not all would agree, that’s for sure).


    Aug 06, 2008
  15. As per my Terms of Service Agreement with Flickr, you must link any shots used on this website back to the orginal source. A credit would also be nice. I’ll let you get away with it this time. Here’s the html:


    Nov 27, 2008
  16. @The Blackbird – you may not remember- I actually e-mailed you about this – and got your OK, ’cause I credited you in the body of the post (see point #2 above). sorry for the mix up (but I did truly clear it with you!) I’ll edit the post so your photo credit comes up under the image.


    Nov 27, 2008
  17. Thanks, Nancy. You’re right, you did clear it with me but I believe I asked you to let me know when you’d like to use a shot because I like to know where my work is being used. Also the shot must be linked to Flickr and I had a good look but didn’t see the link yesterday I checked. Looks good now, though.


    Nov 27, 2008


  1. Homelessness in Vancouver: A very complex issue « Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment

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