For most of us, the last 36 (or so) hours have been filled with talk and thoughts about the decampment happening on East Hastings. These decampments have filled the news, our social feeds, and our prayers.
Admittedly, my context to these events is limited, having only been here since September. But I appreciate the concern and desire to understand more of what is going on, and what it all means.
Yesterday, I was speaking to UGM’s Director of Housing & Support Services, who has worked in the area for years. He shared that what is happening is extremely unique: he’s never seen something quite like this — and he’s not the only person saying that.
I drove along East Hastings last night after work and was filled with a heavy sadness. In this situation, everyone is losing. Everyone.
Our community members truly have nowhere to go. While the encampment sprawl is alarming, the reality is that shelters in Vancouver are nearly full (UGM’s is almost always full) and there isn’t enough affordable housing. Not even close.
Yes, there are incredible problems on East Hastings, some as a result of decades of systemic failings and some as a result of the encampments. Extraordinary problems. But there is also nowhere to move anyone along to. Our community members had their few personal belongings thrown into the trash yesterday. Their homes and their community have now been broken apart.
Yesterday, UGM’s Communications Manager was in the thick of it, as she met with some reporters and ended up within the exclusion zone. What she shared with me was heartbreaking:
“I’ve never witnessed anything like yesterday. As I was finishing a phone call, I noticed a mass of police officers lined up in front of two tents. Next came the city engineers — all of whom looked like they’d rather be anywhere else, doing anything else. As the tents were dismantled, and entire portions of someone’s life were chucked into a trash compactor, the tension and heaviness was thick. Little, if anything, was gained by yesterday’s actions.”
Meanwhile, many businesses on East Hastings have long been shuttered. First responders are put in an unenviable position daily, dealing with the impacts of the opioid epidemic. Government leaders are perplexed with what to do, while detox and recovery programs are woefully underfunded. Outreach Workers do their best to serve and to meet the needs of the community, often approaching circumstances that all but a few of us would avoid at all costs.
We now have a street that needs to be completely restored, but before that, we have a large group of people who need the adequate resources to live a life vastly different from the one they are experiencing now.
This weekend, we have our Easter meal — which feels timely in the wake of this week. It’s easy to feel hopeless — because we are in a liminal space between what was, and what can or will be. As we gather, we are in a unique and distinct position to share how loved our community members are, and how we will continue to remain steadfast in their service.
Hebrews 13:14 says, “for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
I pray and remain hopeful for the city that has yet to come. And we at UGM will continue in our resolve to transform communities, one life at a time.
Sign up to get inspiring stories of hope from UGM
Be the first to receive our Gratitude newsletter, new blog posts, updates on most critical needs and community news.