On September 12, 2002, housing activists and squatters opened the vacant 99 year old Woodward's department store building for free housing. The courts issued an injunction on September 16 followed the next day with an enforcement order. Arrests followed and the protest continued outside.
The building was a symbol of homelessness and affordable housing in the Downtown Eastside, a vibrant but poor and troubled neighbourhood. After the department store went bankrupt in 1993, social housing activists campaigned to have some of the building converted to more than 400 units of affordable housing.
At the height of the protest, nearly 300 people were on the street, but after 90 days the numbers dwindled. In the middle of December, some 50 homeless protestors were moved into a hotel nearby. This was aided by funding from all levels of government. who are also being pressured to build social housng on the site.
Hopefully community activists will be successful in creating a "... home to a diverse grouping of Vancouver arts and community service organizations offering developmental programs in writing, radio and television production, painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, video and cross-media."
Segment shot and edited by Sid Chow Tan and broadcast on $haw cable community channel.