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While Canada Celebrates, Activists Keep Attention On Vancouver's Homeless

Poverty Olympics

First Posted: 05/02/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 04:40 PM ET

As another gold medal rose off the stick of Sidney Crosby in Team Canada's 3-2 overtime win over Team USA in Men's Hockey, the nation of Canada celebrated a gold medal that they had been favored to win since the Winter Games began. Many in Vancouver, however, were not watching the game, but trying to keep attention on Canada's unseen residents: the homeless.

The New York Daily News profiles Harsha Walia, a community organizer who spent much of the last two weeks handing out food to Vancouver's homeless residents.

From the NY Daily News:

"Does it look like people care here?" Walia said. "People here have way bigger issues than hockey games."

The scene was much the same in the "Olympic Tent City," an organized effort to keep attention on Vancouver's underprivileged, while the rest of the city was intent on celebration.

Because of its diversity, there was considerably more awareness and antipathy demonstrated toward the Olympic spectacle from the beginning, particularly on the impoverished East Side. Tent City became the symbolic center of protests, and a very visible indication along the main bus routes that not all was right in the city. Banners and lean-tos consumed this vacant lot. Native Canadians, some of the poorest residents here, gathered daily for food and found impromptu shelter. Most walked. A few arrived on bicycles.

Another organizer, Frank Harris, seemed disappointed that Canada won so many gold medals. He argues that the Olympics are a big distraction to keep people from thinking about the poverty problems that persist in British Columbia. Every time the nation won another gold medal, he says, their cause was hampered.

Despite the games, hundreds of homeless people slept in the Vancouver tent city during the games and many spectators couldn't help but watch.

Harris pointed out the Daily News the most staggering of statistics. It cost the city of Vancouver $8 billion dollars to house the Olympics. It would only take $1 billion to permanently house Vancouver's homeless.

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Filed by Jonathan Daniel Harris  |