Vancouver Zeitgeist
Reflections on Vancouver, British Columbia and other topics, related or not


PHS money pays
political activist’s salary

Woodward’s squat organizer works for city

David Carrigg, Vancouver Courier, October 6, 2002


One of the ringleaders of the protest squat by homeless people in the vacant Woodward’s building is employed by a city-funded agency to help run a $350,000 a year program for drug addicts.

Jim Laydon, who is not homeless, is employed full time by the Carnegie Centre, which operates the Health Connections Outreach Program through the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority’s health contact centre at 166 East Hastings St.

Throughout the protest, Laydon has slammed various levels of government for not spending enough money on problems in the Downtown Eastside, which raised the eyebrows of Vancouver Police Department Inspector Dave Jones.

“It’s odd that he works for the taxpayer on a taxpayer-funded project and then criticizes the government for lack of funding,” said Jones, who co-ordinated the Sept. 21 raid on the Woodward’s squat where Laydon and 55 others were arrested. “All the groups involved in the Woodward’s squat are government funded, indirectly or otherwise.”

For example, the Housing Action Committee is funded by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. VANDU is funded by the Portland Hotel Society, which is, in turn, bankrolled by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

The Poverty Action Coalition is partly funded by the Pivot Legal Society, which is also VANDU-funded.

Jones said the problems in the Downtown Eastside are not due to lack of funding, but to how funds are allocated by the organizations that receive the money.

“There’s an emergence of a feeling that if the money were reallocated, we could have it all,” said Jones, who is also vice-chair of Covenant House, a project that houses homeless and troubled youth.

Wendy Au, a city community project manager, said she’s been trying for the past few months to get a handle on how much taxpayer money is poured into the Downtown Eastside.

“It’s almost impossible to tell because some of the programs are specifically for the area, while others cover the whole of East Vancouver or the Lower Mainland. All we can say at this point is the figure is well into the millions,” Au said.

Laydon refused to comment on his employment at the city, although he said his union—CUPE—is in discussions with the city over an alleged conflict of interest stemming from his criticism of new police chief Jamie Graham and city council.

“I’m in a bit of trouble over speaking to city issues as a city employee and I have nothing to say about my work at the city,” said Laydon, who says he’s been homeless before.

“You are only ever one Liberal decision away from being homeless.”

About 150 people are now camping out on the sidewalk outside the Woodward’s building, demanding that the provincial government-owned building be turned into social housing at a cost of about $90 million.

The building was earmarked for social housing by the former provincial government but is currently up for sale.

Jones said police are not removing the protesters from the sidewalk because charges of obstruction laid against squatters Sept. 22 were rejected by Crown prosecutors.

[end of Vancouver Courier story]

See more posts on B.C.’s junkie/homeless hustle
How’s my blogging?