CRACKS IN THE FOUNDATION Solving the Housing Crisis in Canada’s Poorest Neighbourhood Media Kit 1. Pivot Legal Society backgrounder 2. David Eby backgrounder 3. Veronica’s story: a close call 4. Affidavit of Jeffrey Scott Anderson 5. Affidavit of Sarah Upshaw 6. Randy Allan Darling PIVOT BACKGROUNDER Pivot is a non-profit society dedicated to advancing the interests of marginalized persons through strategic legal action, law reform, and legal education. Located in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Pivot's mandate is to take a strategic approach to social change, using the law to address the root causes that undermine the quality of life of those most on the margins. The core vision behind Pivot is that everyone, regardless of income, benefits from a healthy and inclusive community where values such as opportunity, respect and equality are strongly rooted in the law. It is based on the idea that a critical pressure point of social change is to be found at the lower edge of legal and social boundaries. By systematically challenging the attitudes and institutions of power that enable marginalization, Pivot strives to move us towards a more tolerant, inclusive and compassionate society. By aggressively advancing the interests and defending the legal entitlements of the most disenfranchised, Pivot aims for a "trickle-up" effect that will ultimately benefit all. Pivot’s main campaigns are in the areas of housing and homelessness, addiction and harm reduction, police accountability, and sex work law reform. Winner of the 2004 Award for Excellence in Human Rights and HIV/AIDS by Human Rights Watch, Pivot Legal Society has twice been recognized by Vancouver Magazine as one of the top 50 most influential organizations in the city. For more information, visit Pivot’s website at www.pivotlegal.org. David Eby Biography Lawyer David Eby lives in Vancouver and works full time with Pivot Legal Society on Pivot’s Housing and Policing campaigns. He is the co-lead author of Pivot Legal Society’s first housing report, titled “Cracks in the Foundation: Solving the housing crisis in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood.” Eby, who is 30 years old, is also the author of The Arrest Handbook: A Guide to Your Rights, published in 2003 by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. His article “The Political Power of Police and Crackdowns: Vancouver's Example” was published in the International Journal of Drug Law and Policy in February, 2006. Called to the British Columbia bar in June of 2005, Eby articled with the Federal Department of Justice and graduated in 2004 from Dalhousie Law School in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As a law student, he co-founded the Social Activist Law Student Association and the IdeaLaw Conference, and was awarded the Alistair Fraser Scholarship, the G.O. Forsyth Prize, and the Canadian Bar Association Scholarship. During his second year of law school, which he spent on exchange at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Eby founded the Osgoode Law Activist Association, was a key organizer with the SPINLAW law student conference and won the Charles Edward Woodward Award for academic achievement and the WeirFoulds LLP Prize in Administrative Law. Veronica’s story: a close call W hile helping a 60-year-old First Nations’ woman move to a new apart- ment with a team of Pivot staff and volunteers, I had a “moment of truth.” It was a realization that Veronica Crow-Eagle was literally dumped on the street and left to her own devices following the sudden closure of her apartment block by City of Vancouver staff on March 30. It was now four days after the closure and Pivot rented a van to help people returning to pick up their belongings. A privately-run single room occupancy (SRO) rental building, the Burns Block had closed down after it failed a fire safety inspection and amaz- ingly residents were given one hour to get out of their apartments. (see “Burns Block: no notice” on page 7) Some of the residents ended up on the streets that night. Others disappeared, no doubt to sleep on some friend or family member’s sofa. Those who munity centre for drug users. When that closed City staff gave Veronica had no where else to go, including Crow Eagle, she moved on to the bus station, and when the Crow Eagle (60) directions were directed by City officials to Harbour Light, trains started running early on Sunday morning to the emergency shelter. the Salvation Army shelter for drug and alcohol she rode on the Skytrain to Surrey to keep warm Two nights later she was rehabilitation a few blocks away in the Down- and to “kill time.” walking the streets without town Eastside. Later on Sunday Crow Eagle went to the Down- a bed, as the shelter was Crow Eagle, from the Blackfoot First Nation in town Eastside Residents Association (DERA) full. Alberta, had lived in the Burns Block for eight where she was given a contact at the City-owned years. She said that the hotel had gradually run and operated Granville Residence. She was down after the previous owner died about five pleased to be offered a room for only $325 per years ago and the building was sold. The closure month, but she was told that she could only came without warning – her $375 monthly rent move in on Monday. That night she managed to cheque was only given to landlord Nick Bahrami find a room in a hostel. the day before and it was cashed the afternoon While City officials provided a list of 18 rooms they were evicted. She is still trying to get her available in Vancouver for Burns Block resi- deposit and the rent back from Bahrami who is dents to DERA, the availability of a room does now trying to sell the building for $2.5 million, not guarantee the hotels actually rent to people. up from the $550,000 he paid for it in 2003. Several of the residents of the Burns Block have Following the eviction on March 30, Crow joined the hundreds of homeless people already Eagle said she had a hard night in the emergency on Vancouver’s streets and in the parks. shelter. Scared of people recently released from We arrived at the Granville Residence and parked “penitentiaries,” she moved to the Haven Salva- outside and helped Veronica with her stuff. tion Army emergency hostel in the Downtown Her new room, on the second floor, was small Eastside the next night. Staying in the emergency and clean, with its own washroom, but no bed. shelters does not guarantee a bed and on Satur- “Where are you going to sleep?” I asked. She day night Veronica was told she was out of luck said that they would be able to give her a bed – the shelter was full. tomorrow – but that was the least of her worries, With no place to go, Veronica spent the night “I haven’t slept for four nights.” Sleeping on her walking the streets of the Downtown Eastside to bags would have to do. ● By Paul Ryan. keep awake and warm, ending up in the Health Veronica Crow Eagle moved to a Native Housing residence at the end of May. Contact Centre off East Hastings Street, a com- This article first appeared in The Pivot Post, Summer 2006.