DTES business owners and residents rally amidst anti-gentrification activism

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Save on Meats
Save On Meats was one among several businesses to be at the receiving end of the past month’s wave of anti-gentrification activism. Photo: Raul P via flickr.com

DTES business owners and residents met last night to discuss safety measures following a recent wave of stolen sandwich boards and smashed windows.

The meeting was put together by the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association to address the past month’s spike of anti-gentrification vandalism.

Several businesses have been vandalized and robbed in the past month, including the high-profile theft of a sandwich board from the Save On Meats diner.

“The normal processes of development do put pressure on low income communities and can have negative consequences, but we can also leverage this for positive consequences,” said Wes Regan, executive director for Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association.

A meeting was held last night at the Lost and Found café on West Hastings for residents, businesses and community organizations in the area to collaborate on ways to keep their streets safe. Discussions took place on community relations and the different partnerships that have emerged, such as the Pigeon Park Street Market.

Businesses reflect on the neighbourhood’s needs

Regan said the BIA understands there are issues in the area and that in running a pro-business organization, he understands housing is needed.

“This is a predominantly low income, but mixed community and we’re also concerned about displacement of residents and of existing businesses,” he said. “If we are going to have a diverse community where we have low income residents living alongside higher income earners, we also have to respect the fact that we should have a strategy in place to ensure that we have a range of business types that are able to accommodate, serve and employ a mixed community.”

Judy McGuire, executive director of Inner-City Safety Society, believes that community safety is about community development.

“It’s about working in a place that makes way from the ground up with everybody who’s in your community so that you can not only keep people safe but you can train them how to be safe,” she said.

Gentrification still a contentious issue between businesses and activists

But conflict remains between anti-gentrification activists and businesses in the DTES community.

“The biggest social problem in Vancouver does not have an elected official responsible for it,” said Jack Jardine, who works at the Pigeon Park Street Market.

Jardine said the conflict could start to be resolved when someone with political power is directly responsible for the area and for businesses to help the community by continuing to hire residents from the Downtown East Side.

Over the next year businesses and organizations, like Mission Possible and Hastings Crossing BIA, will be working on preventative safety measures in the area, creating a greater mix of low and high-income workers in businesses and greater support on the streets for immediate assistance.

Reported by Brenna Brooks

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