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Voices from the Olympic Tent Village

While the mainstream media continues to either ignore or blast the Olympic Tent Village, village residents are fighting back by taking things into their own hands.

The Tent Village Voice, a publication by Village residents, has already produced two newsletters during the camp's short week-and-a-half life. Voice profiles Downtown Eastside residents and allies, and highlights the demands of the action.

The Village was set up on February 15 and has three central demands: end homelessness; stop gentrification; and stop the criminalization of poverty. While initially meant to last only through the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the Village currently has no official end date. According to organizers and residents, several homeless or under-housed persons are staying at the site. As such, the Village will not close until those who need it are offered housing by the city or province. So far, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has continued his pledge not to close the site.

Media coverage of the Olympic Tent Village has been sporadic at best, often inciting negative comments from readers who's main trope seems to be calling the protesters "lazy" and telling them to "get a job." Voice, however, offers a chance for homeless residents and allies to talk about why the action is meaningful to them and why homelessness is still an issue in the DTES.

The first issue of the publication highlights Peter Deranger, a traditional Dene Elder and Village resident. Deranger speaks about his family's experience with Canadian industry and the resulting displacement of First Nations people.

"I can't go back to the paradise of my traditional hunting ground. Well, I could go back, but I'll be arrested - arrested for trespassing. If I want a decent house and a decent living, I have to be a corporate slave and work for the people who destroy my own land. So I've decided to become a refugee, to come to the Downtown Eastside, to live with my people."

In the second issue of the Voice, profiled resident Ricky P explains why he is a "non-shelterite," choosing to live on the streets rather than in a shelter.

"The shelters, they try to do the best they can, but so many people go through there, and hygiene is a real problem. You can't take a shower when you want. And you feel like you're being watched. I walk in there, people are close to each other, people are yelling at each other, there's no privacy, it's hard to sleep. So I'm a non-shelterite."

A backgrounder on the Village, timeline of the action, and examples of other housing protests are also included in the newsletter.

Click here to download Issue 1, and here to download Issue 2.

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