Organizations in the Downtown Eastside are uniting more than ever to ensure this unprecedented threat does not disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our communities. DTES Response is a coordinated groundwork effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“The situation is serious and it is urgent. In a neighbourhood where space, food, supplies, and everything is shared, if we have one infection, it could decimate this entire community,” says Wendy Pedersen, Organizer, DTES SRO Collaborative Society. “Living conditions are already dire, and this is only going to get worse if we don’t act now.”
There are approximately 15,000 people at risk in the DTES. 3,000 are homeless and 4,700 are at high risk in privately run Single Room Occupancy hotels (SROs).
Under these conditions, self isolating and social distancing is extremely difficult. SRO tenants share bathrooms and many do not have access to soap, making regular hand washing impossible. SROs do not have kitchens, soup kitchens have shut down, food banks have limited stock, and disruptions in informal economies creates loss of income. Additionally, many SRO tenants don’t have cell phones, so in self-isolation, they can’t stay connected, communicate, or get necessary information.
DTES Response is mobilizing resources and coordinating operations to mitigate the challenges. They are activating networks in the community to create a stop-gap plan for the most urgent needs. For instance: providing food, cellphones, and money for loss of income. “We’ve been seeing community amenities closing,” local organizer, Erica Grant says, “and on the weekends, there is no food available.”
DTES Response Fund
The DTES Response has set up a collective fund to raise $100,000 for immediate needs. It will benefit: DTES SRO Collaboration (SRO-C), Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS), Friends of CCAP (Carnegie Community Action Project), and Overdose Prevention Society (OPS) who are supporting and connecting directly with people in the neighbourhood.
How you can help
Individuals, foundations, and corporations can help right now by:
- Not visiting the DTES: Everyone is practicing social distancing and want to minimize the risk of introducing COVID-19 to the population.
- Donating money: To purchase food, cellphones, and to transfer funds to those in need. Donations can be made online here.
- All donations are being received by Network of Inner City Community Services Society (NICCSS) and will receive a charitable tax receipt.
Follow DTES Response on Twitter for updates and sign up for the newsletter to be kept up-to-date on developing opportunities to get involved.
Related: Buy Megaphone Magazine Online and Support Your Local Vendor; Support the Greater Vancouver Food Bank During COVID-19