OneCity Vancouver urges the City of Vancouver to pause sidewalk evictions until front-line agencies can secure suitable and safe alternative living arrangements for residents.
VANCOUVER, B.C. (Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territories) — In response to the encampment clearings yesterday afternoon on East Hastings Street, OneCity Vancouver is calling on the City to pause evictions until suitable and safe alternative living arrangements are secured, and to work with BC Housing and the provincial government to ensure those alternatives are available.
After a series of fires in single-room occupancy (SRO) buildings, a heat dome which has resulted in unmanageable conditions in poorly maintained and underfunded SROs, the end of unjust and dehumanizing street-sweeps, and a chronic underfunding of affordable housing, a tent city has grown on East Hastings Street. In a cruel twist of fate, it is now being cleared because it poses a fire hazard to other SROs.
It is being cleared despite the fact that BC Housing has explicitly stated that it does not have the units to house the people who will be displaced by today’s actions.
“Our neighbours, in a clear violation of their human rights, are being removed from the place they live without their consent and with nowhere to go. These members of our community are struggling with multiple intersecting crises, including a housing crisis, a poisoned drug supply, underfunding of mental health supports, a heat wave and increased levels of stigmatization and violence,” said Matthew Norris, OneCity Vancouver City Council candidate and member of the Lac La Ronge First Nation.
“These events are the result of decades of poor policy and underfunding including: a lack of affordable housing options in neighbourhoods throughout the city, chronic underinvestment in supportive services, and a reliance on street sweeps. Today’s actions will only serve to displace our unhoused neighbours and will do little to address the root causes of homelessness and poverty in our city,” Norris added.
Whether a person is being evicted from a house, an apartment, or a temporary structure like a tent, evictions are profoundly destabilizing and dehumanizing. They remove a person from local social and support networks, and this instability is compounded by the lack of options for where to go, and the uncertainty of where their belongings will be relocated to and how they will be accessed.
“If we want to avoid encampments in our parks or on our streets, we need to build dignified housing for people at every income level, in every neighbourhood in the city,” said Serena Jackson, OneCity Vancouver candidate for Park Board.
“Every Vancouverite should be ashamed of what happened today. But we should be even more ashamed that this tent city existed at all. We never should have let it get this bad. We saw this at Oppenheimer and Strathcona, and we continue to see it at CRAB Park and on Hastings. Evicting people who have nowhere to go doesn’t resolve anything,” Jackson said.
Despite the hundreds of people sleeping on our street and a pressing shortage of every type of housing, the City of Vancouver continues to subject new social housing proposals to lengthy, often-demeaning public hearings.
These hearings put residents’ human rights on trial. Not only are fully-funded homes left unbuilt due to aesthetic concerns, the future residents themselves are often the subject of organized and discriminatory opposition, resulting in the further stigmatization and demonization of some of Vancouver’s most vulnerable residents.
The status quo is unsustainable. We cannot have tent cities on our streets. We cannot expose other SROs to the threat of fire. But neither can we close our eyes to the fact that for many of the people who were evicted today, and who will be evicted in the weeks to come, a tent on the street was the least worst option.
The City of Vancouver must pause these evictions until front-line workers, in partnership with the DTES community, can secure suitable and safe alternative housing arrangements for those now living on Hastings Street.
To ensure that this never happens again, we must reform our processes and secure the funding to build the homes we need - and ensure that every Vancouverite, no matter their income level or employment status, lives in dignity.
OneCity Vancouver will release its platform, including its proposed response to Vancouver’s housing crisis and community safety, in the coming weeks.
- In 2020, there were 2,095 homeless people living in Vancouver. Although a more recent count has not been conducted due to COVID-19, we can only assume that number has grown.
- The majority of unhoused people were living in Vancouver when they found themselves without a home.
- 36% of unhoused Vancouverites are/were in the care of the Ministry as a Child or Youth.
- Indigenous people are over-represented within the unhoused population, with 39% of the unhoused population being Indigenous despite representing only 2% of the general population.
- Black people are significantly over-represented among unhoused people. They are 3.7 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population.
- Nearly 300 speakers spoke at the marathon hearing for supportive housing at 8th and Arbutus - far more than spoke at hearings on the Broadway Plan.
- Following a presentation made at City Hall in support of the 8th and Arbutus project, BC Housing CEO Shane Ramsay was “swarmed by opponents and threatened with physical violence.”
- For more information on a human rights approach for homeless encampments see: “A National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada” by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing.
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