Originally uploaded by ardenstreet
Graffiti from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Remember VANDU? They’re the grassroots community group in Vancouver that got a grant and implemented a plan to help fight bed bugs in Vancouver’s beleaguered Downtown Eastside.
Well, they’re back at it, this time as one of the sponsors of this weekend’s Poverty Olympics (along with Raise the Rates, DTES Neighbourhood House, CCAP, BC PWA, and Streams of Justice).
And this is no joke. According to a press release, the organizers couldn’t be more serious about highlighting poverty and homelessness in the city that will roll out the red carpets for the Winter Olympics in 2010:
“When people visit Vancouver in 2010, they will be treated to eye-popping scenery, efficient services, and relaxed and friendly residents,” says Wendy Pedersen of Carnegie Community Action Project. “But they’ll also be treated to a city that could have more homeless people than athletes competing in the 2010 Games.”
“We want the world to know that Vancouver and BC have world class levels of poverty and homelessness,” says Jean Swanson of the Raise the Rates Coalition. “More than 2,000 people in our city are homeless today. Many are so poor they have to search through the garbage for food and things to sell.”
The Province online reports that volunteers are drawing attention to the problems faced by residents in the city. Organizers have come up with some appropriate mascots:
Itchy the Bedbug, Creepy the Cockroach and Chewy the Rat will be front and centre as the mascots at the Downtown Eastside’s Poverty Olympics at the Carnegie Centre on Sunday.
My money’s on itchy, if the rat doesn’t eat the other contestants. What’s in store on Sunday?
Ten torch carriers will run a two-block relay down East Hastings, said organizer Wendy Pedersen, before a five-metre-high “End Poverty Torch” is lit to mark the opening ceremonies.
Other events in the Poverty Olympics will include “the long jump over the bug-infested mattress,” “the poverty-line high jump” and the “welfare hurdles.”
“We have world-class poverty and homelessness in Vancouver” said Pedersen. “It’s a fun way to send a serious message.”
And perhaps fun is the best way to get their message across to more people.
I wish I had a photo of Itchy the Bed Bug.