Occupy Vancouver Condemns City Hall's Mischaracterization of City's Handling of Occupy Encampment
Occupy Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver, December 20, 2011 — With 13 of 26 protesters the City promised to find housing for still without shelter this Christmas, Occupy Vancouver is condemning reports issued by City Hall that claim the protest was costly, but well handled.
"It's outrageous to characterize the city's handling of this protest as anything but disastrous," says protester Sarah Beuhler. "They misused city resources, they misled the public and worst of all, they let down the Occupiers they promised to find housing for, leaving 13 of them homeless this Christmas."
Occupy Vancouver points out that the one million dollars in expenses the city claims the protest cost was almost entirely unnecessary: Occupy Vancouver did not incur these costs directly or ask the City for the support of its personnel; they were incurred by the City, as a precaution. In the wake of scathing criticism for their mishandling of the Stanley Cup riots, Occupiers feel the City overreacted to Occupy Vancouver by over-policing and over-responding to the peaceful protest.
"Never mind what the city claims the cost of the occupation was," says protester SFU Professor Steve Collis, "we know that the services Occupy provided the community with during the two months we were at the art gallery largely offset any expenses incurred by the city."
An assessment of Occupy Vancouver's services conducted by social policy graduate student Eric Hamilton-Smith found that over 37,000 meals were served, $672,000 of primary medical care was provided, and 30 people were housed for 37 days at a time when beds at primary shelters were not available. The assessment documented more than $1 million in benefits to the community.
"While the services we provided had tangible benefits we can prove," says Hamilton-Smith, "perhaps the most important thing we did was raise urgent issues that need to be addressed through direct political involvement."
Occupy Vancouver is challenging the city to make good on their promise to find housing for the 13 people still without shelter due to the shutdown of the Occupy encampment.
If you would like more information or would like to schedule an interview, please contact:
Occupy Vancouver Community Services
PRELIMINARY FACT SHEET
(Revised December 20, 2011)
The Occupy Vancouver site has become a community which approximately 80 people currently call home. Of those residents, approximately 30 would otherwise be defined as ‘street homeless’. In Vancouver, the estimated cost per mat for emergency shelters is $83 per night, according to a CBC report.1 With an average of 30 street homeless housed at VAG over the 37 days of the occupation, the protest site provided approximately $ 92,130 worth of housing services.
Food Services – Food, Not Bombs!
Volunteers with Food Not Bombs have been serving free vegan meals out of a tent every day since the occupation started. It has become a de facto soup kitchen, feeding people who are part of the occupation, but also many others who just want a good meal. According to Mission Possible, an organization that provides free daily meal services, the approximate cost of providing each meal (not including the organization’s operating costs) is approximately $3.50 per meal. Food Not Bombs serves an average of 1,000 meals per day at Occupy Vancouver over 37 days, totaling 37,000 meals, for an estimated $129,500.
Volunteer Doctors, RNs, and medics have been providing a range of services, from treating colds, cuts, and scrapes, to dealing with serious infections, pneumonia, and reviving one man who suffered a drug overdose. Most of the clinic patients are from the community at large, many of whom may be homeless. Crossroads Clinics Vancouver charges approximately $180 per visit for non-MSP covered visits, and estimates the same cost to taxpayers when visits are covered by MSP. The Medic Tent at the VAG has an average of about 100 visits per day, steady for 37 days, and totaling $666,000 of benefits. In addition, about a dozen visits involved having a patient stay in a clinic bed for supervision. The cost of a hospital bed at the ER is $500 per day, adding an additional $6,000 of avoided costs. Not including the value of specific treatments, vitamins, or medicines provided on a daily basis. In the 30 days since the Occupation began, the Medic Tent has resulted in well over an estimated total of $672,000 in avoided costs to BC’s healthcare system.
Occupy Vancouver has provided people with the opportunity to find fulfillment in the work they are engaged in and to develop new skills. This includes many people who have been unemployed or discouraged from looking for work due to the poor performing Canadian labour market. A lack of employment prospects can often cause many people to become discouraged and lose hope. These people can find themselves in precarious situations and are at an increased risk of falling into depression, drug use, or alcoholism.2
Before the Occupation, Reo Bousquet, 28, was trying to make ends meet, struggling with unemployment and suffering from depression. Since his involvement with the Occupy movement, his spirits have lifted and he was known around the camp for his positive attitude and for his hard work ethic. Reo has been spending most his time working with the Media Committee, and has been developing new skill-sets such as online live-streaming and video production. “Occupy Vancouver means the world to me. Now I’m focused on providing a better future for my wife and son,” said Bousquet.
Support and Socialization for Marginalized People
Ricky Lavallie says that he prefers being at the encampment because he often encounters violence in shelters. “Staying in the shelters was rough. People in the shelters didn’t like me because I’m First Nations and I would get beat up all the time,” said Lavallie. “It’s fun to be here with my new family. I’ve learned a lot and also shared the First Nations way with everyone here. People here are teaching me how to write in my diary, and to read.” Ricky says that no one had ever tried to teach him how to read or write before coming to Occupy Vancouver.
Political Engagement and Education
Around the world, the Occupy movement has engaged millions of people of all ages and walks of life. In Vancouver thousands of people have been repeatedly coming to the Art Gallery to volunteer, participate in the General Assembly, attend workshops, and listen to speakers.
By providing an opportunity for people to voice their concerns and act on issues that matter to them, Occupy Vancouver has politically re-energized a public that had grown too apathetic to vote. Through providing a collaborative venue for discussion and meaningful participation in politics, the movement has made a great many people feel empowered about participating in political discourse, and about having a say in the socio-economic issues that are important to them.