A Downtown Eastside non-profit says it plans to work with Canada Post to safely restart mail delivery in the neighbourhood.
Brody Williams, a community outreach worker with Mission Possible, told about 50 residents who had gathered for a raucous protest on Tuesday that the organization plans to work with Canada Post to deliver mail.
“Mission Possible did a test run today, delivering mail with Canada Post — it did really well — and we’re going to do another run,” Williams told The Tyee. “I think we’re in a step in the right direction.”
Canadian Post halted mail delivery to two blocks of East Hastings Street on March 23 because of health and safety concerns, according to a statement from the national mail service.
It was the second time Canada Post had halted delivery service to East Hastings because mail deliverers say they don’t feel safe on the street.
For six months during 2020, mail carriers also suspended service because the street was crowded and, they said, they couldn’t practice social distancing during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Williams said the current suspension of service is different.
“The reason Canada Post did not want to deliver mail is that they’ve been harassed and some of them even assaulted.”
But stopping mail delivery to Vancouver’s poorest neighborhood means many residents may get their welfare or disability checks late.
Residents were told they could pick up their mail from a post office at 333 Woodland Dr. — a 30-minute walk away, and a trip that’s impossible for some residents who have limited mobility.
To pick up mail people also need to show identification, something that many people who live in the Downtown Eastside don’t have because of constant theft and other factors.
To many, the mail delivery stoppage felt like discrimination against people living in poverty in a neighborhood where many people are unhoused, and drug use in public spaces is more common.
Several speakers at a protest Tuesday said this would never happen in other neighbourhoods.
Residents also asked why they weren’t told about the delivery suspension in advance.
“We have to stop being a silent, invisible community who lets the government treat us like shit,” said Liane Gladue, a resident who has been affected by the mail delivery stoppage. “They’re interrupting the federal mail… just give us our mail, so we can heal. Give us our money. It’s a breach of our rights.”
The protest, which coincided with one of the two days this month that people on income assistance receive their checks, was organized by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and Our Homes Can’t Wait. Participants carried signs pleading for mail delivery to resume, and ended the protest by mailing complaint letters to Canada Post.
Williams said it was important to have people from the Downtown Eastside community working with Canada Post to solve the problem and get the mail flowing again.
He’d like to see a similar solution to the daily street sweeps that happen in the neighbourhood, where police accompany city sanitation workers and often throw away unhoused people’s belongings.
“I think it’s great that as a community we were able to help,” Williams said. “I would like to see more of that happen: I’d like to see people working with the city as well when they do their cleaning up in the DTES, to have someone alongside the VPD, making sure they behave.”
In an emailed statement, Canada Post said it will be trying to resume delivery to the affected blocks this week, but called that service resumption “temporary.” Canada Post has also expanded the hours of the Woodland Drive postal depot from 10 am to 6 pm