July 26, 2014 9:24 pm

Impact of Oppenheimer Park protest

Close to 300 homeless activists marched through the Downtown Eastside to get their message out to the city earlier today.

It’s a march to end homelessness, which happens every year at this time, and it comes on the heels of 40 campers defying the Park Board’s order to stop occupying Oppenheimer Park.

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The First Nations campers are arguing they do not have to leave since the park is their land and their goal is to convince governments to open more housing. But the protest has irritated some locals, who have lost the use of their neighbourhood park.

“It’s actually turning out to be a very negative site,” says community worker Nicole Best.

“Where it should be something more positive, if they are trying to get housing and wanting to help the homeless… but in the park they are actually shutting them down.”

The tent protest forced the Union Gospel Mission, which works at overcoming poverty, homelessness and addiction in Vancouver, to move their annual summer barbecue to Crab Park, which is several blocks away.

“We are good friends with them, we have a good relationship and we understand both sides of the equation,” says Bill McCauley, Union Gospel Mission.

Building developer, Concert Properties spends $35,000 to sponsor a community cook out, which feeds about 5,000 to 6,000 people in the DTES, many of which are part of today’s housing protest.

“This one is certainly a very special event,” says David Podmore, Concert Properties board chair.

“And we are serving people food and providing them with the opportunity to have a meal in a great environment and connect with people in the community.”

The street housing march made its way through the DTES, passed through the Olympic Village and finished at Vancouver City Hall.

~ with files Brian Coxford

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