Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) is an area that suffers from severe mental health problems, acute poverty (with a disproportionate Indigenous population), rampant drug use, dangerous sex work and territorial stigmatization- defined as a form of social discredit produced by the media, government conduct and the opinions of the general public. Because of this, the residents of the DTES are framed by many as separate entities and often excluded from the city’s collective identity and discourse. This is crucial as it influences policy making, research and general attitudes towards the DTES community.
The suffering of this community has been further compounded with the continued fentanyl and opioids epidemic that has claimed over 3,800 lives in British Columbia alone between 2016 and 2018. With nearly half the Injecting drug user population of a 944,000 km² province concentrated around a couple of blocks, the DTES has been most affected. Its residents have become synonymous with crime, drugs, and disease. This has led to the ingraining and proliferation of stereotypes held towards those living in the Downtown Eastside.
In May of 2018, Kite Vancouver created a partnership with Bumpin’ Bakery to support and expand the services Bumpin’ had been running successfully and independently since 2014. The organization has been serving coffee and food to local residents every Sunday morning on the corner of Main and Hastings since its inception. Kite has worked to support and expand the fantastic work of Bumpin Bakery since mid-2018 by contributing a group of talented university students that helped Bumpin Bakery accrue the money and partnerships necessary to continue their activities.
Furthermore, in November of 2018, Kite and its partners held the first in a series of holiday dinners for DTES residents. The first dinner saw hot meals prepared by our collective network of volunteers and given to members of the community.
2019 will see a strengthening and further development of the partnership between Kite Vancouver and Bumpin’ Bakery, as we begin co-designing a new poverty alleviation project. The summer of 2019 will be the formal start date for ideation, with the goal of beginning to implement the project by the end of 2019.
Kite Vancouver systematized Bumpin Bakery’s data collection system and methods, published 7 articles bringing awareness to the stories of DTES residents and created a 10x increase in university student turnout to the weekly Sunday handouts.
Funding and partnerships
Kite members were instrumental in securing grant funding and recurring weekly donations from local bakeries that allowed Bumpin’ to run its activities.
The first in a series of holiday dinners was held in November 2018 and saw 300 hot meals be prepared by the bumpin’ volunteer team of 20 students. Kite members assisted in the promotion and solicitation of donations.