What are street sweeps?

Every morning in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a team of Vancouver Police Department (VPD) constables and CUPE 1004 municipal ‘Streets’ workers patrol East Hastings Street to ‘sweep’ unhoused people and their belongings off the sidewalks. While the City maintains that their street sweep team is trained to only dispose of ‘structures’ and not possessions, the 100 Downtown Eastside residents our team surveyed say this is far from the truth.

Unhoused residents of the Downtown Eastside targeted by the street sweeps report a daily routine of harassment, intimidation, and the theft of their property along East Hastings. The street sweep team regularly bully and taunt residents as they take their belongings, which include everything from survival shelter gear, mobility devices, and irreplaceable items like baby photos and relative’s ashes. 

How do we stop the sweeps?

Drawn from our initial survey of 100 Downtown Eastside residents affected by the sweeps and refined through follow-up street outreach, our campaign has developed two primary demands:

  1. End and replace the current practice of ‘street sweeps’ with community-led sidewalk cleaning programs without police constables;
  2. Decriminalize sheltering and vending in public space through the repeal of all relevant bylaws.

Why stop the sweeps?

While we are demanding reforms in municipal practices and bylaws, our campaign is centred on developing community defense and empowerment in the Downtown Eastside. Street sweeps are a violent component of the ongoing gentrification of the neighbourhood. Ending the sweeps is therefore a small but necessary step towards housing justice in the Downtown Eastside. 

Where is this taking place?

Our campaign is concentrated on the daily sweeps that target the five blocks along East Hastings Street between Gore Street and Abbott Street. However, street sweeps are performed less frequently all across Vancouver, targeting unhoused people congregating to find shelter. 

Street sweeps are not unique to Vancouver. All across Turtle Island / North America, unhoused people and allies are fighting unjust and inhumane practices of street sweeping in the cities they call home. 

Who is involved?

Vancouver and Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) – VANDU is a group of users and former users who work to improve the lives of people who use drugs through user-based peer support and education. VANDU is committed to increasing the capacity of people who use drugs to live healthy, productive lives. VANDU is also committed to ensuring that drug users have a real voice in their community and in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.

Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War (CPDDW) – CPDDW goal is to change policy and empower people who use drugs, both by filling systemic gaps in healthcare provision, and through long-term systems change. CPDDW seek to collaborate with existing drug user run institutions in an attempt to battle the current ramifications of what we have dubbed “the Crisis of Prohibition”

Defund 604 Network – Defund 604 Network believes in a future without policing, while working towards the transformation of white supremacist, settler-colonial, hetero-patriarchal, capitalist culture, by striving to build and fund alternatives to the police that are rooted in healing, consent, anti-racism, decolonization, and transformative justice.

Pivot Legal Society – Pivot works in partnership with communities affected by poverty and social exclusion to identify priorities and develop solutions to complex human rights issues. Our work is focused in four policy areas: police accountability, drug policy, homelessness, and sex workers’ rights.

Learn more & get involved

Contact us with your questions, learn more about the campaign to Stop the Sweeps, and find out how you can get involved.