Gedogen: A Dutch word that means tolerance, or "illegal but not illegal", and which informs a general policy among the Dutch of creating a permissive governmental structure.
Throughout our travels in Amsterdam, Netherlands, we saw several examples of this idea - public consumption of alcohol and the retailing of cannabis products being the most obvious illegal but tolerated activities - which contributed to what we see as a trusting and functional relationship between governments, authorities, and citizens. The idea of tolerance showed up in several of the areas we learned about here, such as guerilla bike lanes (new bike lanes painted by citizens), which have often been accepted by authorities provided that they are used and work well for people, and eventually enforced, then, as officially designated bike lanes. What an idea! As one of our sustainable bike tour guides, Cornelia, informed us, this mutually trusting, community serving relationship between people and authorities did not always exist; a number of years ago, significant changes in the structure of the police force in the Netherlands were facilitated, shifting the role of the police from one that encouraged police violence towards young people, to that of community workers.
The concept of Gedogen has allowed for the city to take a very interesting approach to dealing with the occupation of vacated spaces by squatters. We learned this on our bike tour, upon visiting OT301, a building that houses a creative non-profit organization of artists. This organization emerged out of an agreement between the municipality and squatters occupying this once vacant building in 1999; the agreement held that these squatters would be permitted to stay in the space providing they formed a non-profit organization that would give back to the community in some way. These folks prefer to work outside of the monetary system, and so are enabled to do this while they continue to work and be productive in the ways they choose. Many similar situations exist throughout the city. This is all a result of an alternative movement in the 1970s against housing demolition for road construction, which worked to acquire more rights for squatters. The notion behind this push was simple - the way people saw it, it was immoral to leave a perfectly useful building unoccupied if individuals needed a place to live, and if they were to use this space, they should have the right to do so. Now, if you are a squatter in a place in Amsterdam, you have a great deal of entitlement to live there, as you have worked to make a home for yourself in this place.
We wonder, could this sort of approach to occupation of vacant spaces be utilized in Victoria and other Canadian cities in combating the issue of homelessness?