Occupy Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territory, November 11, 2011 – Vancouver Fire Chief John McKearney said after a site inspection Thursday that Occupy Vancouver is close to conforming to Wednesday’s court directive to improve fire safety. VFRS officials visited the site again Friday afternoon to order certain tents to be moved six feet away from the art gallery building and to ensure tarps do not span multiple single-person tents.
Every day, Occupiers can be seen working hard to address what they feel is an ever-expanding list of orders and directives. The initial order included only five basic requirements; however, the court order allows the Fire Chief to add to the list at any time – an opportunity Occupy Vancouver says the Vancouver Fire Department has made a point of capitalizing on.
“Some of us have been trying to comply the Fire Chief’s new requirements, but we have not been able to find out what they are”, said Tom, an Occupier with the media committee. “None of the onsite Firefighters seem to know what those requirements are, and we’ve received no exhaustive official list from the fire department. Their lack of communication with us has seriously impeded our efforts. It’s no better than the claims they make about us not being communicative enough.”
Despite their confusion, Occupiers are continuing to respond to the new and changing demands, and are constructing new dome structures which they believe will surpass even the most stringent of fire safety standards.
“The domes we are constructing are far safer than single-person tents in that they maximize heat transfer between multiple occupants. Each dome will be covered with a flame-retardant tarp, and will have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers mounted on the inside,” said Eric Hamilton-Smith, a protester and member of the logistics committee. “In addition, the domes allow for a community-dwelling model which speaks to the nature of what we have created here,” said Hamilton-Smith.
“At Occupy Vancouver, what we’ve built is a real community that produces a plethora of social benefits and public goods, such as education, skills development, and political engagement.”
Hamilton-Smith, who is completing his master’s thesis in public policy at Simon Fraser, is working with a team of researchers to evaluate the benefits Occupy Vancouver provides society. “If you look at the half-million the City wasted on October 15th due to riot-related paranoia, the benefits we’ve provided the city far exceed that figure.”
Although the team has only just begun its research, initial projections of those benefits already exceed a million dollars. The projection includes the benefits from housing, food, clothing, medical care, a loaning library, education and skills development, socialization for marginalized people, and political engagement. “Many of those benefits are easily quantifiable by finding market substitutes and comparing the costs of those with the services offered at Occupy,” said Hamilton-Smith.
If you would like more information or would like to schedule an interview, please contact:
Occupy Vancouver Media Committee,
Occupy Vancouver is a non-violent political movement to transform the unequal, unfair, and growing disparity in the distribution of power and wealth in Vancouver and around the globe.
Occupy Vancouver Community Services Preliminary Fact Sheet
Occupiers hold that the encampment is a necessary part of their political expression, the Occupy Vancouver site has become a community which approximately 80 people currently call home. Of those residents, approximately 25 would otherwise be defined as ‘street homeless’. In Vancouver, the estimated cost per mat for emergency shelters is $83 per night. With an average of 25 street homeless
housed at VAG over the past month, the protest site has provided approximately $62,250 worth of housing services, and counting.
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 $1.50 per meal. Food Not Bombs serves an average of 1,000 meals per day at Occupy Vancouver over 30 days, totaling 30,000 meals, for an estimated $45,000.
Volunteer medics have been providing a range of services, from treating colds, cuts, and scrapes, to dealing with serious infections 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, totaling $540,000 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. In the 30 days since the Occupation began, the Medic Tent has resulted in an estimated total of $546,000 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 Canadian labour market. “The lack of employment prospects causes many people to become discouraged and lose hope. These people are in precarious situations and are at an increased risk of falling into depression, drug use, or alcoholism.”
Before the Occupation, Reo Bousquet, 28, was struggling to make ends meet struggling with unemployment and suffering from depression. Since his involvement with the Occupy movement, his spirits have lifted and he is known around the camp for his positive attitude, which boosts camp morale, 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 living 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 Ricky. “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.