More hope in shadows
June 9, 2007 12:28 PM   Subscribe

This morning in Vancouver, volunteers handed out hundreds of disposable cameras, available free to any low-income resident of the city's Downtown Eastside (DTES) neighbourhood. Pictures in the returned cameras will be entered in this year's "Hope in Shadows" competition, with winners getting prizes and one of 12 spots in next year's calendar. (It will be sold by specially-trained low-income folks, who keep half their profits.) Run by Pivot, a local legal activism group, "Hope in Shadows" is a succesful and "innovative empowerment through art" project and a chance for the residents of the DTES to define their community -- one most often defined by its poverty, addictions, violence and disease.
Previous winners: 2004, 2005 [1] [2], 2006
posted by docgonzo (13 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
excellent idea...there are tons of small-scale neighborhood arts things going on that really are fab. Art is empowering, and there's so little of it, if any, now in schools.
posted by amberglow at 12:35 PM on June 9, 2007

Wow. That is a great program. It reminds me of Real Change here in Seattle, but with a neat art bend to it.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:44 PM on June 9, 2007

Thanks for the link--this is a cool project. There are so many vital activists living and working in the Downtown East Side.

I worked with a Humanities 101-type programme (non-credit courses for low-income/at risk folks) and we offered a photography course to the participants--they had never used professional equipment like that before and they loved it. They took some gorgeous photos, too.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:29 PM on June 9, 2007

It's an interesting program, and the photography is gorgeous, but as to it being "successful"... I'm not sure what that means since so far as I can tell the situation gets more desperate every year.

I've lived in East Vancouver for the past decade, and watched it go up and down. In the past 8 months we've had two break-ins, and I've had to kick the same dude out of our garage 3 times. He was this sketchy fuck who was constantly bringing young women in there who were clearly fucked up, while he was not.

While I advocate all sorts of lefty approaches including programs like this one, throwing buckets of cash, improved mental health services and social housing, legalization of drugs, and simply handing addicts the drugs they crave, I thing that ultimately the solution will be "gentrification" of the Downtown East Side.

The worst thing we can do to these people is leave them together in this stinking ghetto where they don't have to conform to any sort of community values. I think the best thing that we could possibly do - aside from the things I've mentioned previously - is for them to live aside non-addicted citizens and families who can teach them to start acting like civilized human beings again.
posted by Rusty Iron at 3:08 PM on June 9, 2007

I have bought those calendars, in fact there's one up on my wall right now. I like what the Pivot society does. I agree with Rusty Iron on the concept of trying to spread these people throughout the community, but I fear that NIMBY will keep that from ever happening.
posted by Salmonberry at 3:23 PM on June 9, 2007

does Vancouver have an 80/20 law? or anything like it?
posted by amberglow at 3:26 PM on June 9, 2007

This is a neat program. I support it, and all the others like it which have been inspired by Briski, and I care about poverty in the North American ghettos. But I'm having some trouble while thinking of the poor of Vancouver in the same context as the children of prostitutes in Calcutta. One difference, among many, is that almost all of these people in Vancouver could have bought those disposable cameras themselves. Getting an insight into the lives of Vancouver's extremely poor is quite a different thing than getting an insight into the lives of the children of one of the red light districts of Calcutta. There's poverty and despair then there's poverty and despair. I don't know that it matters, really, as art and compassion don't rely on such comparative matters. But of course the nature of the project itself brought both contexts to mind simultaneously.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:32 PM on June 9, 2007

Here's to hoping the photos turn out better than the thousands taken by disposable cameras placed on wedding reception tables each June.
posted by Muddler at 4:00 PM on June 9, 2007

does Vancouver have an 80/20 law? or anything like it?

No. Social/low-cost/non-market housing is generally built/maintained through capital expenditures from municipal, provincial and the federal government. Problem is, the feds got out of funding housing in the mid-90s, thus touching off the homelessness crisis we've been seeing in Vancouver (and Toronto, and to a lesser extent in Montreal and other cities) since then.

The problem is further exacerbated in Vancouver by the absolutely un-fuckin'-believable local real estate market. Driven by high demand, low supply, the 2010 Olympics and speculation, Vancouver's housing market is the worst in the nation by far in any metric you chose to use (average rent, % of income on rent, vacancy rate, etc.)

Development and gentrification is touching the fringes of the DTES -- the huge Woodward's site is being re-built as condos with some social housing (after a decade-long fight which included a year-long occupation.) I won't debate that some of the problems of the DTES are due to the concentration of poverty, addiction and disease in such a small space. But for those people who think condo-ising Main and Hastings will "solve" the problem have to answer the question: Where will all these people go?
posted by docgonzo at 6:35 PM on June 9, 2007

that's surprising, considering you guys are good with social issues, usually. You guys should push for it with your city council/mayor/provincial officials/etc--it's not much, but it helps, especially in terms of new construction.
posted by amberglow at 5:48 AM on June 10, 2007

considering you guys are good with social issues, usually.

No. We're just good at making people think we're good with social issues.
posted by docgonzo at 9:10 AM on June 10, 2007

ahhh : >
posted by amberglow at 9:55 AM on June 10, 2007

It's a nice gesture, but I couldn't see anything concrete coming out of it.

Jobs - that's the main solution - maybe not the only one, maybe not the best one, but figuring out how to get more people employed locally is about the only way you're going to clean up a bad neighborhood.

In Denver, the downtown Colfax area was a rat's ass back when Denver was bust - but the economy picked up and the street started to brighten up, too.
posted by rougy at 11:40 AM on June 10, 2007

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