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Olympic Tent Village

Minutes after a giant banner reading “HOMES NOW” was unfurled just after noon on Monday, February 15, just up the street  from Pigeon Park, on Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver, some 500 anti-poverty and housing activists began a march to call for a greater focus on housing and homelessness.

Under the banner of “No more empty talk, no more empty lots,” the march was aimed  at calling attention to the connection between the 2010 Winter Olympics and the  homelessness crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Greater Vancouver  area. Since the Olympic bid, homelessness has nearly tripled in the GVRD, while  real estate and condominium development in the Downtown Eastside is outpacing  social housing by a rate of 3:1. Heightened police presence during the Olympics has  further criminalized those living in extreme material poverty in the poorest postal  code in Canada.

The march was organized with three core demands:

1. Real action to end homelessness now
2. End condo development and displacement in the Downtown Eastside
3. End discriminatory ticketing, police harassment, and all forms of
criminalization of poverty.

As the main body of the march made its way through the DTES, a smaller group of activists broke away and began to set up the Olympic Tent Village in a fenced-in  empty plot, erecting tents, a tarp-covered meeting space and food preparation area  with the aim of holding the space for as long as possible. As the march rounded the  corner of Hastings and Abbott, yells of support rose up and the march joined those
already there in putting up tents and securing the site.

The Village, located at 58 West Hastings between Abbott and Carrall is on a lot  owned by the condo developer Concord Pacific and currently being used as a VANOC  parking lot.

The village immediately came under police surveillance both from the ground and from the roofs of nearby buildings as numerous Vancouver Police officers filmed and  photographed participants. A brief but peaceful confrontation occurred as representatives of the  City of Vancouver attempted to erect pylons and caution tape on the sidewalk around  the site, which they said was for the safety of those inside the area. Activists accused them of trying to surround and isolate the village, and with the Vancouver-based labour choir Solidarity Notes singing “We Shall Not Be Moved,” activists linked arms to prevent workers from erecting the pylons, eventually driving them away.

Some 50 people, half of them homeless people or residents in the DTES in precarious housing situations stayed overnight in the tent village despite heavy rains, and the village continues today.

For updates and more information on the Olympic Tent Village, visit