Homeless activists set up tent city

By MATT KIELTYKA, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER -- A tent city has popped up at a VANOC lot in the Downtown Eastside and isn't going anywhere if squatters have their way.

The Downtown Eastside Women's Centre Power of Women Group and a number of housing advocates took over the Concord Pacific-owned site at 58 West Hastings Monday night and say about 100 squatters stayed overnight.

"Homes are needed and that's why people are coming here in the tent city," said activist Harsha Walia. "The priority is not the Olympics or billions spent for a party for rich people. The priority should be housing." The tent city -- which was used by VANOC as a staging area for the opening ceremony -- is one of the most vivid demonstrations of Vancouver's homeless problem yet, and the squatters are inviting people down to see the protest site for themselves.

The initial goal was to keep the squat going for a week, but Walia said that may be extended if people need a safe place to sleep.

So far, police have let the protesters be, but that may change if VANOC tries to reclaim the space.

"We are aware of the tents that have been erected there," said VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade. "We're determining where we need it for closing (ceremonies)."

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