Hunger Strike for Social Housing and Against Gentrification

By Tami Starlight (Cree-Peguis Nation) Written on unceded and occupied Coast Salish Territory

Homeless Dave on the walk for welfare (pic. p0stcap)
Homeless Dave on the walk for welfare (pic. p0stcap)

“I’m prepared to go as long as it takes. It’s a life and death struggle for our community, a unique community in our city and country.”  That’s what “The Artist – formerly known as Homeless Dave” said to the media at City Hall on the 14th day of his hunger strike.  The Artist began his Hunger Strike on March 22, 2013 after many conversations with local community organizers who were picketing the Pidgin restaurant at Carrall St – across from Pigeon Park. Certainly the picket is more than just that restaurant, or owner, or the few businesses currently overwhelming our low-income Downtown Eastside neighbourhood by displacing the low-income community.

The Artist formerly known as Homeless Dave has considered the ramifications of the hunger strike very thoroughly.  He has support from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Cecilia Point of the Musqueam Nation, the Aboriginal Front Door, Butterflies in Spirit, Carnegie Community Action Project, Carnegie Community Centre Association, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council, Downtown Eastside Power of Women Group, Gallery Gachet, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society and his family doctor.

As a community organizer I am extremely inspired and proud to work alongside him and others who are fighting the good fight against gentrification, homelessness, corruption, greed and the fight for social housing, accountability, inclusion and transparency.

March from DTES to City Hall supporting Homeless Dave's hunger strike (pic. AHA Media)
March from DTES to City Hall supporting Homeless Dave’s hunger strike (pic. AHA Media)

Our Downtown Eastside low-income community is facing a gauntlet of gentrification from the City of Vancouver and their funders – the developers. This fact is challenging to figure out, but it can be done with time and research. Carnegie Community Action Project has done a lot of research.

Homeless Dave at news conference launching his hunger strike (pic. fluxphoto)
Homeless Dave at news conference launching his hunger strike (pic. fluxphoto)

Some quotes from the Artist formerly known as Homeless Dave: “Gentrification is intensifying; desperate times call for desperate measures.” “It’s going to get tougher every week; this is about deep philosophical issues; it focuses on life and death, community and what we stand for in society. There are already people who want me to die and starve just like the DTES, just like they want to see this community gone.  They say it on Twitter.” “We’re not about smashing windows. We’re about smashing the old broken paradigms and building new paradigms that are more just and equal.”

Dave and about 40 supporters were at City Hall Thursday, April 4th, 2013 for a “weigh in” and to deliver his demands to the Mayor and Council.  City Manager Penny Ballem told the crowd that the City had interim zoning guidelines during the Local Area Planning Process.  Many were angry because that just deflects the concerns and didn’t acknowledge the demands.

The demands:

  1. 100% community-directed social housing at the 138 Sequel location, with a healing and wellness centre (the old Pantages Theatre site).
  2. 100% social housing at the old cop shop on Main St. with a community directed space focused on Indigenous women with regards to the horrific damage done to Indigenous people by Vancouver police for a very long time at that site.
  3. The City of Vancouver declare the Downtown Eastside a social justice zone and along with the community develop policies to make that happen.

How to get involved: email



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