News / Vancouver

'I am not afraid': Marpole residents rally to welcome housing for homeless

Event shows support for the 78-unit building, after weeks of protests against it.

Marpole resident Karen Ajeson attended a rally in support of housing for homeless people on Dec. 5, 2017.

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Marpole resident Karen Ajeson attended a rally in support of housing for homeless people on Dec. 5, 2017.

Holding signs that read “I am not afraid,” high school students in Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood led a rally to welcome housing for homeless people planned across the street from their school.

They were joined by parents and other residents, who said they wanted to show their support for the project after weeks of protests against it. Around 75 people turned out for the Dec. 5 rally.

“We need more housing in Vancouver in general, especially more affordable housing,” said Rob Baxter, who lives nearby with his young family. The temporary modular housing project will sit on land at 59th Ave. and Heather St., where a large housing redevelopment, including social housing, was approved after years of community consultation.

“We’ve been through four years of consultation on this site and we’ve known there was going to be social housing here. We don’t need any more consultations, we just need the housing.”

Across the street, residents who are opposed to the building gathered in a small knot. The anti-project protesters say the location poses a safety risk to children at two schools, and they want more consultation from the city before the project proceeds. The BC Supreme Court granted an injunction Tuesday to prevent protesters from blocking construction on the site and loitering on nearby sidewalks.

Tenny Chiu, holding a huge sign out of a Krispy Kreme box describing the “high needs” people that might live in the new housing, said that some protestors had blocked an access road a few days ago, but people now are focused on protesting peacefully.

Tenny Chiu, who opposes the plan to locate the 78-unit building across from two schools, made this sign based on a city document that describes some of the most high-needs people who may live there.

Jen St. Denis

Tenny Chiu, who opposes the plan to locate the 78-unit building across from two schools, made this sign based on a city document that describes some of the most high-needs people who may live there.

Laura Stannard, who was at the rally in support of the project, acknowledged that that “wide range of needs” described by Chiu's sign sounds scary, but “don’t you think it’s scarier to have those people not housed whatsoever?”

“We basically don’t have the right to say who can live next door to us, and it’s kind of an important right.”

Stannard has worked with homeless people and been involved with housing projects for people with special needs. She said there is always community opposition at first, “no matter how much consultation you do.”

“After a year passes, the neighbours are always fine.”

Stannard is part of community committee to offer welcome and support to the tenants when they move in. One of the biggest problems they will face is finding food nearby, since there are no nearby grocery stores.

“I know that the city doesn’t appear to have any ideas about that, so I think it’s going to be up to the residents,” she said. “There are actually a lot of low-income people in Marpole, so whatever food solution arises out of this is going to benefit the whole neighbourhood.”

Lenlen Castro, who attended the rally in support of the project, crossed the street to talk to Chui. They shook hands over his homemade sign warning of the dangers of the project, talked, and agreed to exchange contact information to set up a future discussion.

“We can show that Marpole is not a divisive community,” Castro said.

“No, it isn’t,” agreed Chiu.

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