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Bruce Allen: Vancouver's tent encampment has been a disgrace

Tents go down, tents go up, it's quite the dance
Bruce Allen says something should have been done long ago to get rid of the tent encampment.

            It wears me out hearing about people whining over the city trying to get rid of tents set up on the sidewalks on the Lower East Side. I can’t believe anyone with a brain would come up with the idea that tents on the side of the street with people living in them is alright. It’s not alright. It’s a civic disgrace. And every citizen knows it!

            I think I know a lot more than most people about the Lower East Side. I’ve worked down there since the 1970’s. I can look out my office window at Carrall and Hastings and see as far as the eye can see up Hastings Street. It’s a mess. The entrance to Vancouver from East looks like Mad Max. And it’s not getting any better. Locals are afraid to venture down there. Businesses are looking to move out. And the sirens wail daily. If I don’t hear a dozen sirens a day – then I didn’t go to work.

            When the city gave the word last week to clean up East Hastings, they took down 80 tents and who knows how many propane tanks. They said they needed to do it due to a deterioration in public safety and an increase in fires.

            The fire chief said there was a fire problem six months ago. But nobody did anything. So one SRO burned to the ground at 235 Abbott and just a few weeks ago a one-time theatre and rental space burned down on Main Street. Before anyone starts whining about the denizens on the streets on the Lower Eastside, maybe they should venture down there and walk the streets and alleys and maybe get a better handle on what’s going on down there.

Vancouver itself has become a dumping ground for the country’s problems. This is not British Columbian’s down there. Experts say probably less than 20 per cent. Quebec, Ontario, and the Prairie provinces are really well represented. Those governments give them a one-way ticket and say, “See you”. Good luck! And so, Vancouver takes the hit. Well, citizens are tired of it. It’s sad that our police force has to come out in force to clean up the streets. I’m sure that there are much better things for them to do. The same for the city workers that have to clean up a mess that we all know is illegal. One hundred and forty people had to go out there to get sworn at, receive threats, and pick up garbage, needles, and God knows what else.

            And here’s another sad part. Unless they go up and down Hastings every day for the next month, this is not going to go away. The theft, the violence, the squalor, and the chaos will rage on. Ken Sim is the bright new force at City Hall. He’s now got the job to get the Lower East Side back on its feet. I wish him luck. But the cards are stacked against him.

The CUPE union is now moaning about having to clear the streets. Actually, the cops clear the streets. The CUPE guys shovel up the garbage left behind by the illegal occupants and throw it in the back of a garbage truck. Then they hose down the street. They should hose down the streets every three or four hours on Hastings.

As of earlier this week the dance was continuing. The tents go up. The tents go down. The tents go up. The tents go down. Some guy from Stop the Sweep Coalition said that people are getting angry. What people? The freeloaders and junkies? Vancouverites have been angry for years about the Lower East Side. And it only gets worse.

Bruce Allen is a music manager and a commentator.