The Downtown Eastside community is asking for help to support people who were moved out of the Hastings encampment Wednesday (April 6) by the city.
The Stop the Sweeps Coalition has launched a campaign on the GoFundMe platform called "Hastings Residents Evicted by Police" to raise money to support residents following what they are calling a "horrific decampment" of the DTES tent city.
Organizers say all funds will go toward helping former campers find shelter and replacing tents and belongings that they say were "stolen" by the city.
So far, the campaign surpassed its original $25,000 goal and is close to the $32,000 mark.
On Sunday, April 9, the Red Gate Arts Society also held a karaoke fundraiser at 1965 Main St. to raise money for the people who were displaced following the East Hastings decampment.
"Street sweeps" -- the controversial practice of removing unhoused people's tents and belongings from the sidewalk and other areas -- have been routinely conducted in the DTES for several years. Advocates said personal belongings were thrown away during street sweeps with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and that they disproportionately affected Indigenous people, Black people, People of Colour, drug users, 2SLGBTQ+, and people with disabilities.
Following public outcry, the VPD stopped accompanying city sanitation workers during the sweeps starting in July of 2022.
Many unhoused people feel safer camping on streets than in SROs
Vancouver Area of Network Drug Users (VANDU) community organizer Vince Tao previously told V.I.A. that many people live in encampments because they feel unsafe in shelters or single resident occupancy (SRO) buildings.
Over 140 Gastown SRO residents were displaced after a four-alarm fire broke out in a tenant's room on the second floor of the four-storey Winters Hotel building on April 11, 2022. Former tenants told V.I.A. that they didn't hear fire alarms and that fires in the building were not uncommon.
At the one-year mark following the devastating fire, a former Winters resident told V.I.A. that she continues to live in unsafe conditions and the city has not provided displaced tenants with adequate resources to rebuild their life.
A former resident of the Hastings encampment, Stuart Panko, told V.I.A. that the accommodation options he has been shown in the past were infested with rats and vermin. As a long-term camper, he noted that he isn't picky but he feels "far more safe on the street."