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The Centre considers moving out of the gay village


The Centre considers moving out of the gay village

ALL OPTIONS STILL OPEN. Centre co-chair Craig Maynard (left with board member Rebecca Shields) refused to rule out moving The Centre out of the West End, Apr 16. IMAGE 1 OF 1
Community members outraged
Queer community members were swift to condemn the potential relocation of The Centre outside of the West End, saying the move would lead to the death of the organization.

"Everybody's reaction is, 'They're going to do what?' in various tones of alarm, dismay and 'No, no, they can't possibly do that,'" lawyer barbara findlay told The Centre's board of directors Apr 16.

"I do speak for other people — lots of other people — and the sense of those people is that, first of all, if you move to Burrard and 7th, you will kill The Centre. Period, full stop," findlay warned the board, which met at co-chair Craig Maynard's home in the West End.

"The result of moving The Centre would be that the community itself is degraded by your loss," findlay further cautioned.

"Because we are a relatively insular community and we will come to the West End — we will go to Little Sister's, we'll go to The Centre, we'll go to the activities that are down here at the bars — but a little outpost on 7th and Burrard just is not going to be enough of a draw to take anybody over the bridge," she said.

Findlay also challenged the suggestion that the Burrard location would be more accessible, pointing out that the street grade would be too steep for people to wheel up or come down. "Effectively, there's no advantage from a physically-accessible point of view," she said.

She said it's important to locate a community centre where the community is. 

"You wouldn't put the Croatian community centre in Surrey," she said.

"What I'm here to say to you is you can die a slow death financially or you can commit suicide," she added.

Little Sister's co-owner Jim Deva also attended the meeting. He said having The Centre in the Davie Village is vital to "a viable LGBT core."

Deva proposed a fundraising plan that would see Pride weekend used to raise money for The Centre. He said he has approached the Pride Society about the plan.

"Let's really bring The Centre to Pride and when people are in that mood of 'what can you do, how can you do it?' — that's the time to nail them and get them supporting you," Deva said.

"You can't be The Centre in isolation," former city councillor Alan Herbert told the board. "They are diametrically opposed."

"You are not the community centre. The community centre is the community's. You are the stewards of the community centre. That's what you are," Deva said.

"Be very, very careful," he warned, "that the community centre progresses and you're not the board that ends the community centre."

"Nobody wants more to keep The Centre alive than this board," said The Centre's executive director Jennifer Breakspear.

"You all have been giving us hell about that [current Bute and Davie] location for years," she pointed out. "Those stairs? Those stairs are a shame. Every time I greet a visitor in that place, I'm ashamed of those stairs. This is something we've taken flak for from this community for years.

"We need accessible street-level space we can be proud of from which we can deliver our programs and services for our community. That's what we're about," Breakspear emphasized.

"We're not looking to do any damage to the Davie Village or this community," she further stressed. "We're looking to continue to enhance this community. If there were space to do that right now in the Davie Village, we'd be all over that," she said.

"And if — and this is an if, it's not a done deal — if The Centre moves out of the Davie Village, it would always be with the intent of returning, to a true beautiful home of our own. It would never be a permanent move," Breakspear promised.

"This board has never considered that as a possibility," she continued. "It is always to come home again — if we have to leave, and we don't know yet whether we do," she said.

Breakspear said the board is examining its options because it needs to cut its operating costs, but said thus far there were no architecturally appropriate sites in the West End. She said  "shutting [the board] at the gate" while it explores its possibilities is shortsighted.

"It's not accurate to say there are no architecturally appropriate sites," findlay countered.

Not street-level sites, Breakspear fired back.

Trying to cut The Centre off in a process of exploration doesn't serve the community, Breakspear reiterated.

"I'm hearing you say, 'barbara, you're fucking it up,'" findlay replied. 'Here you've gone, you've released all this information that we were trying to keep confidential. It's going to make it really hard for us to negotiate with anybody, and who are you to say that the consideration of all the options that we've made carefully and with the best information we can gather is a wrong decision for the community.'

"All I'm here to tell you is the reaction of the people of the community," findlay said. "And I am here to tell you that in the strongest possible terms."

Findlay then asked the board to reject the Burrard and 7th option and announce to the community that it won't be moving out of the West End.

Maynard refused.

"I know we're not going to have a decision tonight," he told Xtra West after the meeting.

Asked if locations outside the West End are still on the table, Maynard says every option is under consideration. "Wherever we can make the best use of our resources. It's about the people that we serve."
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Better think fast...
This is not the end of it. Gays/Lesbians are being gently broomed out from the West-End fo many years (if you do not own a place). I guess it is time to consider another neighbourhood.The Centre moving is not the end but only the start of something new.We need more affordable housing in order to keep a form of Village which will meet our needs.
Community Accountability
Congratulations to both barbara findlay and the Centre. Genuinely. These are tough discussions to have and even tougher negotiations to complete.

The Centre is doing a fine job of implementing the results of it's community consultations. If accessibility was identified as the #1 priority, then it should be addressed as such. Tough economic times mean tough decisions; I appreciate that both temporary and long-term solutions are being discussed and that all avenues are being explored.

Congrats to barbara, too. These sorts of decisions need to be made out in public so that the community consultation is an ongoing process that doesn't cease at a survey deadline! The Centre should be at the centre of the community. Thanks for keeping our voices heard and our community intact.
It would seem to me that moving The Centre elsewhere and offering services that fewer people will use would be an even bigger waste of already scarce resources. Furthemore, there are people in the community who are offering to help The Centre with their financial difficulties. And I'm glad that you didn't have problems coming out of the closet, but many other people don't have it that easy.
If you people in the 'community' think it just HAS to be there and absolutely no where else, then you better pony up and financially support the place cause its going to move.

You can talk all you want but if you aren't going to go into action, then you can't fault others for trying to do their best to at least still provide the services available no matter where it is.

As for me, I grew up on a farm in a very religious community. It was not a problem coming out of the closet. Times have changed tremendously.
You can find support where you least expect it.
Dexter, you seem to be talking about people who are already out, not those who are still struggling with their sexual identity -- the ones that are most likely to benefit from the services offered by organizations like The Centre. For many of these young people, their perception is that the West End is where they will find lots of other people just like them. It would be nice if they knew that there is a whole big gay world out there and that society is increasingly tolerant of homosexuality, but when you consider how sheltered some of these young people are (think of the isolated gay teenager living up North with a strict, religious family), they don't know this. If places like The Centre exist to help people who are first coming out (among others), then they should be located where these people are most likely to gravitate to. This is especially the case for those who are still questioning and might therefore not even consider seeking services. If you move The Centre on Burrard & 7th, the likelihood of reaching these people will be greatly reduced. Services must come to them, not the other way around. Yes, in a perfect world this wouldn't be the case because everyone would be full of initiative and go after what they needed, but it's not a perfect world. If the goal is to reach out and offer help and support to those who are most in need, then we have to stop being idealistic and start being practical.
"WEST END" community members outraged
Xtra West has long been pushing the fallacy that the West End is the Vancouver gay world. Really!
No doubt most gay men and women live outside the West End – because it has nothing for the vast majority of us. The bars? Your life centers on a BAR? Do you think that Davie Street is the only place in town where two guys or two girls can hold hands? Get outta town! The women can tell you how cruisy Metrotown is for them. Go there, count the number of women walking around holding hands. Lots. Go to many small BC towns and look for all the gay people. This weekend I saw three visibly gay male couples, and a few female couples, in SOOKE!
Do you know that other cities and towns have gay nights in their bars, and that a certain hotel outside the downtown / West End has regular gay nights?
You patronize the mediocre restaurants on Davie? Is it because you can’t cross a bridge to find better? Oh, how pathetic.
You’d have to cross a bridge to get to the proposed new gay center location! Oh my god! Are you all aware that The Center runs programs which actually take place outside of the West End? Of course you don’t. You’d have to cross a bridge to find out.
Oh, I know what it is. You guys all have those special shopping cart theft protection devices in your shoes. Cross a line at Davie and Burrard, and your feet stop.
These stories are amusing anyway. Keep writing them.
I can't imagine a gay community centre not being located in what is perceived to be the 'official' centre of that community. True, gay people are spread out all over the city, and it's not as if Burrard and 7th is in Timbuktu, but the message this sends is sad. Everyone knows you can locate The Centre anywhere and that people who need its services will find a way to get there, but not having The Centre in the West End (or at least downtown) will add further to the sense of fragmentation that exists in the community. I know a move might be practical, and it sure beats closing up altogether, but the appearance of it all is troubling --- and we all know how powerful appearances can be...
My friends and I were so shocked to read this article.
Thank you to Xtra west for exposing this. We look forward to you keeping us in the loop about this seeing as the Centre can't (or won't)
We have a right to know.
I was a volunteer at the Centre and I was hoping to go back but not after I read this.
I will not be renewing my membership and I will be encouraging my friends to remove their support as well. If you don't value my opinion than you don't get my support- financial or otherwise.
This is going to take a lot to repair.
Where is the voice of the community?
I thought that the Centre was the "voice" of the community?
Nobody asked me about my opinion on this matter
No one asked for help in maintaining "our" Centre
This is so irresponsible.
What are they hiding over there?
How about an opportunity for our community to speak?
What happened to space in th Coast Hotel?
Didn't the Vancouver Courier run a story last year about The Centre being in talks with the new owners of the current Coast Hotel complex? I thought that they were talking about space in the office areas that will become available when the Current Coast Hotel shuts down at Comox & Denman. That building is supposed to begin its conversion into rental apartments and office space at the end of this year. Did those talks fall through or is it too long to wait for that to come to fruition?


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