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Nov 26, 16

Vancouver: Tent City Residents Displaced from 58 W Hastings Move to New Site

From The Volcano

Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories

This evening, residents of the 58 W. Hastings tent city were ordered to vacate as a result of a Supreme Court ruling in support of the City’s injunction. The residents and their supporters took over the streets of Downtown Eastside and marched together to Thornton Park, the decided-upon new site, where residents and supporters worked together in the heavy rain to set up tents. The residents of the Wendy Poole Park tent city have also been displaced today and some have also moved to Thornton Park. The City’s injunction shows that the City has put the rights of private property over human rights, which must be opposed.

In order to meet the basic needs of the residents, the City must provide garbage bins and regular garbage pickup to this site and provide portable washrooms suiting the number of residents at the site.

Despite the difficult weather conditions, it is not clear how long the tent city will be able to remain at this site and another injunction is not unlikely. The presence of the media and the supporters is greatly needed over the course of the next few days to ensure the residents are not left vulnerable to potential harassment from the police. Donations in the form of warm clothing, especially socks, hats, and gloves, and supplies including tents, tarps, ropes, umbrellas, garbage bags, and battery-powered lanterns with batteries would be immensely helpful. For drop-offs please contact Maria at the number below to make arrangements ahead of time.

Thornton Park is at 1166 Main St. across from the Pacific Central Station and Main St. Skytrain station.

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Around 9:30 am on the morning of November 25, 2016, police arrested seven people at the new Thornton Park tent city beside the Pacific Central Skytrain; one homeless resident and six supporters. Since the arrests all seven people arrested have been released.

City park rangers delivered notices to residents instructing them to take down their tents because of a bylaw that states that tents must be removed from public parks by 9am. Tent city residents and supports linked arms to defend the shelters as park rangers, backed by 20 police officers, attempted to dismantle tents and temporary shelters. Police used unnecessary force to separate residents and supporters, pulling and pushing bodies and throwing people to the ground. Seven people were eventually handcuffed and taken to the Vancouver jail on Cordova Street. During the arrests supporters and residents cheered “HOMES NOT JAILS! WINDOWS NOT BARS!”

The residents of the Thornton Park tent city had previously resided at the tent city at 58 W. Hastings and Wendy Poole park. The City of Vancouver’s injunction to evict residents at 58 W. Hastings was upheld by a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling which came into effect yesterday at 6pm. Residents at Wendy Poole Park were forced to leave that park yesterday morning by city staff. Residents and supporters marched from 58 W. Hastings last night to Thornton Park where they set up tents in the heavy rain.

Supporters and residents hosted a press conference outside of the courthouse at 5pm Friday evening in solidarity with the one remaining supporter who remained in custody until 9pm this evening. At the press conference residents spoke about their experience being homeless and the treatment they receive by police.

Daniel, one of the seven people arrested, spoke about the criminalization of the poor: “The police arrested me for protecting my stuff, for being homeless.”

Andrew, a resident who had moved from 58 W Hastings the night before, explained how the criminalization of the poor has long-term effects on the lives of the homeless: “People who just need a place to live can end up with a criminal record and so they can’t get a job, they have to steal just to eat, or they get arrested for illegal camping.”

Michelle spoke about the punishingly low welfare rates and how they push people further into poverty: “For someone who isn’t able to work anymore, like myself, with the amount that they give you, nobody can live on that and survive. You have to think, ‘Do I eat today?’”

All of the residents who spoke discussed government inaction. Daniel stated, “Shelters aren’t a solution, they’re just bandaids.” Michelle spoke of her experience in SRO hotels: “SROs are dirty and infested. I’ve heard stories of people getting sick from rats.” Andrew spoke to the lack of action that governments have taken: “We deserve to have safe housing, clean houses. And we deserve solutions, not promises.” Andrew’s final comment reminded the crowd of why we must continue to fight: “We are human beings – we all deserve a safe, warm, clean place to live.”

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