The Week — Aug. 11

Artists battle homelessness with paper, geese get eviction notice, Rose Henry tells it like it is

Serina Zapf and team papered Pandora Green with tiny tents to expose an issue the city is trying to hide.

Paper, pride and prejudice

A few artistic activists left their mark this past weekend, with an eye-catching installation on the Pandora Green that left more than a few bystanders doing double-takes, and a handful of residents cheering on their mission.

“Whenever I cycle past Pandora Green I always have such a strong emotional response to its history, and I felt like it was time to speak up about that,” says local artist Serina Zapf, who spearheaded the installation, “Good Neighbours.”

Zapf partnered with other artists and homeless advocates in the community including Jody Franklin, spokesperson for the Victoria Coalition Against Poverty. The group then gathered donations of recycled mat board and pre-painted cardboard to create over 200 tiny paper tents and instal them throughout the green. Dozens of people stopped to ask the group what was going on, and people were even invited to help fold a tent or two.

“The Pandora Green has been an ongoing concern for us especially this past year with the city’s ‘beautification’ project,” says Franklin, who assisted with the paper tents. “People were really supportive, but it was awfully funny when the sprinklers turned on … one city worker berated us for covering up the sprinklers, but that was about the only dissension we met.”

The city’s billed beautification project of the green has critics pointing to a prominent displacement of the homeless population. Franklin says new sidewalks which cut through the ground, the manicured grass and, of course, the sprinklers, have voiced an obvious deterrent to those seeking shelter.

“What we’re really seeing here is social cleansing — this is the city trying to make homelessness invisible,” says  Franklin. “We fully expect Good Neighbours will be a temporary installation, removed by the city by the next business day. I’ll leave others to interpret the obvious symbolism of this.”

Sure enough, the exhibit was promptly removed.

“The most intense moment for me was sharing a smoke with this woman from the shelter next door who said she just doesn’t know where to go. She has nothing, and people aren’t listening to this,” says Zapf. “It’s heartbreaking to me that we could be spending over $500,000 in taxes to lay down some grass and sprinklers when there are people who just don’t have anywhere to go. I’m still trying to process this.”

Geese need homes too

Speaking of the city’s move to displace the homeless, this week marks the annual “goose herding” activities by parks staff.

Those vagrant Canadian geese will become targets for forcible home invasion, as city officials try their best to prevent the fly-ins from rooting down during breeding/nesting season in Beacon Hill Park and surrounding popular nesting grounds. The herding kicked off Tuesday, Aug. 9, with the public and media being invited to watch Diana Jasinski and her dog Splash work as a team to “safely herd” Canada geese away from the park.

The city has stated that nesting geese produce feces containing harmful bacteria, displace native birds and plants, harm grassy areas and rare ecosystems and are aggressive to humans and other wildlife. Apparently only our own fly-in ducks and purchased peacocks have safe poop and lack behavioral problems.

“The goose management program is aimed at deterring geese from choosing the park to nest in and thereby avoiding a residential population of geese,” says the city’s communications guru Katie Josephson. “It is the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In an area such as Beacon Hill Park where we have not had resident, nesting geese, the most proactive management of geese is to prevent the geese from nesting in the first place.”

The herding will continue over four months, and the city discourages anyone from interacting with the geese, including feeding or deterring. Perhaps it’s time these geese look into the passed right-to-shelter bylaws our city is so uncomfortable with.

Rose tells it like it is

Homeless advocate Rose Henry is back from her international news conference in Scotland, and has successfully spread the word: turns out, the world is still in the dark about many Canadian issues, especially around missing aboriginal women and poverty.

“That was a shocker for the whole conference … All the reporters said, ‘What are you talking about? Canada is one of the most desirable countries in the world,’” Henry says, adding that educating about the Pickton case disturbed many. “Women from South Africa and the Philippines related to these issues … Poverty is worldwide. Are we going to say we’ve had enough? I believe we are building the movement when we gather and discuss these issues.” M

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