Vancouver Tent City: Moving Day

So the courts finally got around to filing an injunction saying that the campers at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, would have to vacate the Park by 10:00 pm, Wednesday night, or face arrest (though the Police Chief Jim Chu has said that arrests would be a last resort). Unfortunately, where we’ve had all this beautiful weather all year with virtually no rain to speak about, and whereas the little bit of rain we have had since fall arrived has been in the way of scattered showers, in the last 24 hours or so, we’ve had a pretty moderate to heavy rainfall, almost steady without any major breaks, and one of the results of this is that Oppenheimer Park has turned in to something resembling an extremely large, if somewhat shallow, mud puddle.

“…the police…for the first time in Vancouver’s history, are wearing body-cams to record not only their actions, but the actions of those they find themselves interacting with…”

What this also means is that where you would normally have had a lot of the campers automatically try their best to comply with the court order, and most likely be successful at carrying it out, with just a few hot-heads who would attempt to hold out, threatening to do so even up to and including if they should be arrested, you will now have a lot of people look like they ARE holding out, but I stress that they only LOOK like that, and the real problem is that the weather is now preventing them from doing anything for the time being, but staying right where they are. And as for those that are trying none-the-less, since they waited right up to the deadline before attempting any real effort at making the move, those efforts are now being made in a very dark, wet, and pretty cold environment. Needless to say, despite the presence of the police on the perimeter of the encampment, along with the inevitable media and assorted lookers-on, very little real progress is being made. The assorted folks from the various community agencies, and volunteers such as myself, who showed up to keep an eye on things with our cameras and videos, making sure the campers were being evicted in a civil manner, have had very little to do, quite simply because very little is happening. One of the more interesting notes in this regard is that the police, at least a certain number of them, for the first time in Vancouver’s history, are wearing body-cams to record not only their actions, but the actions of those they find themselves interacting with. With Vancouver still undecided on the issue of body-cams, and thus not yet having any in their supplies as of this time, the City purchased a number of the devices at retail for use on this occasion. Whether or not we’ll see them used again probably depends on what City Council finally decides.

As the 10:00 pm deadline came and went, and there was no attempt made by the police to move in and force the issue last night, I asked around, and the general consensus appeared to be that the police were content to let the remaining campers (a large number of them) spend the rest of the night there, and finish up in the morning. If that had been the case in its entirety, I might have made it through this thing without having much in the way of negative comment to make at all in regard to the way this “eviction” had been handled, and I would have been, if you’ll forgive a very bad pun, “a happy camper”. Unfortunately, although the morning brought with it some slightly better weather, it also came with a very harsh look once again at just how fast people can turn nasty toward their neighbors who may not be doing as well financially, socially, physically, or psychologically as those conveyors of nastiness perceive themselves to be doing in their own somewhat self-centered minds. When I saw the campsite this morning, I wasn’t going to take any more pictures because I knew you would be seeing lots of “those” kind of pictures if you read a daily newspaper, or watch the news on TV. It is the way the park looks now that the City wants you to see so they can justify their actions in evicting the campers, and, of course, it will be made to appear, that the campers themselves were responsible for what you see in those images. But I’m here to tell you, they’re not. And since I have the early pictures to compare with, I’ve changed my mind, and I’m heading back right now to get the “after” shots that I failed to take this morning. When I get back (my Blog will be published a little late today), I will explain what it is exactly that these pictures are “After”. So, here I go, and now…

“…since I had never had any call to think of this gentleman as a conspiracy freak, I admit I was starting to wonder about just what kernel of truth had sent my friend here off on such a wild tangent…”

…I’m back. Now the first thing I want to illustrate is the way things can escalate so quickly, and how rumors can so rapidly leave the realm of anything sensible, and take up residence in the stratosphere of the totally bizarre in mere moments. I no sooner walked into the lobby of my apartment building when I was met by one of my fellow residents, who eagerly set about informing me of the 6 overdoses that had occurred at the tent city last night, and how the police were, at this exact moment, launching a full-scale assault on the campers, the same campers that I had just been watching and snapping pictures of mere moments before. I tried to assure him that the information he had gotten was somehow in error, but he was having none of that, and since I had never had any call to think of this gentleman as a conspiracy freak, I admit I was starting to wonder about just what kernel of truth had sent my friend here off on such a wild tangent. Arriving at my rooms, I immediately checked the computer for breaking news regarding the tent city, and finally was able to find an article telling of a single individual 69-year-old male who had been found dead in one of the tents yesterday, a death not found to be suspicious in any way other than the body was possibly not discovered for a couple of days. And with all the confusion surrounding the need to move and all, even the time involved in discovering the body could not really be called suspicious if the man had no close family or friends.

When I arrived at the park, I confirmed for myself that which I first thought I had noticed when I passed by the encampment earlier in the morning on my way down to keep my daily appointment at the clinic, which takes me by the park on my way there, and then again on my way home. In all the photos I had taken of the campers in my first posting of the Tent City, as well as in the pictures I’ve clicked on several occasions since then, one of things that continually stands out is the neatness and the orderliness of the tents in the park, and their surrounding areas. Even the occasional times I have caught a tent in the process of being disassembled, or immediately afterwards, it has always been done in a neat and orderly fashion; things have been piled neatly, gathered for later removal, either taken to garbage receptacles, or if the items are still of value to the owner, taken to the new place of residence. Perhaps, some of the items were being kept since they might yet be sold as a source of much-needed income. The point being, there was never an unseemly mess left lying about, and this was inevitably the way, even up until last night when I snapped a few more pictures that quite firmly support the claim that I’m making.

“…as I watched these people who were fortunate enough to make a decent living not only destroy the personal belongings of a bunch of decent folks who couldn’t manage to make a decent living, but at times quite obviously enjoy themselves as they went about performing their acts of destruction,…”

That is, until this morning, when everything changed. You see, its quite obvious, that with the rising of the sun, those City workers, and Park rangers, who had until today been hovering around the perimeter of the encampment, had now moved in, and begun “cleaning up”, leaving in their wake an area that looked just like a tactical nuclear device had been detonated, and then a second one following, just to make sure that there was nothing left that wasn’t ripped, torn, or shredded beyond recognition. There was no folding, or neatly piling here, only total destruction, with no regard for the fact that these items that were obviously “garbage” to them, were perhaps the only things owned by the people that had been forced to find shelter in a city park area because there were simply no housing units available that they could afford on the income they could manage to make according to the difficulties they faced in their troubled lives. I snapped a few pictures as I watched these people who were fortunate enough to make a decent living not only destroy the personal belongings of a bunch of decent folks who couldn’t manage to make a decent living, but at times quite obviously enjoy themselves as they went about performing their acts of destruction, some of them talking loud enough for me to hear as they complained about how hard done by they were having to clean up after a bunch of animals. You might think that I would consider the people doing the talking to be the real animals in that situation, but I don’t. I just cry a little bit inside for each of them…it must be very hard for them to live with such hard calluses on their hearts and their souls. They don’t even realize how far away they are from really living.

But when you watch the news, or read the paper, please remember, and if you have to, feel free to ask those of us who had the opportunity to be down at the tent city from time to time. I’m sure you will have no trouble in finding a lot of people who can tell you, the people who were living there for the last few months did not live in their own filth, and they did not destroy the park, or ruin it for everybody else. When I was walking by every day, more than once I stopped by, and very often someone offered me a coffee, or tea, or some conversation if they thought I was feeling down. They didn’t threaten me, or tell me to go away, and they didn’t tell me I should be helping them just because I had a place to live and they didn’t.  They weren’t bad people that I had to be afraid of, they were just people, some of them had been my neighbors in better times, and hopefully some will be my neighbors again. I really hope things work out for them, and I hope things work out for everybody. For now, however, I’ve gathered a bunch of the photos I’ve taken of the Tent City of Vancouver, 2014, and put them in the gallery below so you can check things out for yourself. As soon as I get this published, I’ll be heading back over there, and if anything major should come up, I’ll keep you up to date of course, until then…

Vancouver Tent City: Moving Day

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