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On Running for City Council, Playing Whack-a-Mole with Homelessness, and the Public Washroom Deficit

Tea & Two Slices is a long-running local news round-up by NEEDS frontman and veteran dishwasher Sean Orr, who lives Gastown, deeply aware of his privilege.

Full Disclosure:

Dear readers, as you may already know, I’ve decided to run for city council. I’ve been writing this column for over a decade and I’ve seen nothing change. It’s like I’ve been smashing my head against a brick wall. Homelessness is at an all time high, rent is still too damn high, people are dying in record numbers, friends are getting priced out, small businesses are closing, and the rich are getting even richer.

Our political leaders seem to lack the courage and will to tackle the big, structural changes needed to make this a happy, healthy, and vibrant city for everyone. The right, with the help of billionaire-funded astroturf groups, are dominating the narrative that Vancouver is a crime-ridden cesspool because we’ve defunded the police (we haven’t), or that socialists have take over (they haven’t – this is capitalism at its most base). They use the mantra of personal responsibility to deflect blame away from the system and onto the victims of that system.

That’s why when VOTE Socialist approached me, I jumped at the opportunity. We took cues from Kshama Sawant in Seattle, Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson, Bernie Sanders, and the municipalist movement of Barcelona en Comú. We are renters, artists, frontline workers and, yes, dishwashers, crafting policy together. I love this city and I passionately believe we can truly make it a Vancouver For All.

The cycle of trauma is never-ending. Three people die every day in BC. From a near riot two weeks ago (VPD pushed a man with a walker to the ground as they forcibly removed tents from East Hastings), to yet another fire: 3-building fire in downtown Vancouver displaces 59 people. At this point, we should start calling our homeless population internally displaced persons.

Meanwhile: Vancouver police under scrutiny after deaths of multiple young Indigenous women, girls. I have no fucking words.

The VPD eats up 800 dollars a minute. Constant criminalization of poverty and poor-bashing from the media, in the face of ever increasing displacement, is devastating the community. And, as I sat down to write this: Man dies after ‘interaction’ with Vancouver police. Nice use of air quotes, but if the media reported this with as much ferocity as they do random stranger attacks, the narrative would be a lot different.

Case in point: ‘Walking dead roaming the streets’: Local BIA president agrees with Vancouver Tripadvisor review. When you don’t see PWUD as people you can ignore the root causes of addiction and blame them for their own predicament while reinforcing the system that perpetuates trauma. It’s a PSYOP and the media are all too willing to play along.

And the end result is this: Poster threatening arson, violence towards unhoused in DTES prompts VPD investigation. These people face violence every single day.

Even our park rangers are getting in on the action:

We have been playing whack-a-mole for years, chasing people from park to park. Either we need some sort of permanent, low-barrier, outdoor village or, you know, actual fucking homes: No rooms available, so Vancouver tent city residents scramble to find a home. Remember, most of these people can’t get a room if they have a partner or a pet, and the shelter rate remains frozen at $375.

This is a policy failure on so many levels. Federal, provincial, and municipal.

We need other jurisdictions to shoulder the load. Vancouver has 25% of the people in the metro region but takes on more than 75% of the responsibility. It’s no wonder so many people think our downtown core is declining. We just can’t pay for it and decades of neoliberal austerity politics are to blame.

Then there’s former BCCLA director David Eby and very likely our next premier: BC NDP frontrunner David Eby proposes involuntary treatment for multiple overdose patients. What happened to this guy? Didn’t he write papers for the BCCLA condemning mandatory treatment because he knows it doesn’t work? Yikes.

Will David Eby commit to lowering the allowable rent increase? I’m not holding my breath: BC’s 2023 rent increase maximum could be highest in decades without provincial intervention. Also, will they appeal the decision by the supreme court to strike down vacancy control in SROs? Still not holding my breath.

We have nowhere to go (to the washroom): Vancouver’s 24-hour public washrooms mapped. Seven? We need hundreds.

Bonus: Reversing the Freight Train.

There are 6 comments

  1. Best of luck in your campaign Mr. Orr. The city deserves better and you’re better than the status quo.

  2. I can see the sunlit uplands now, Jean is knitting away and Sean is trolling the internet looking for the next person he can doxx because he doesn’t like their opinion,Vancouver deserves better, at least an adult.

  3. City Van has a loooong history of disgruntled kooks and fringe candidates seeking their 15 votes of fame, to which they’re entitled. It’s not only in dictionary that delusion precedes democracy.

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