July 29, 2022
The Vancouver Tenants Union stands in solidarity with the Our Streets Statement on the Hastings Street Tent City Fire Order. The VTU calls on the City of Vancouver to immediately end the order to decamp unhoused residents in the Downtown Eastside.
We are in the middle of a pandemic, a toxic drug supply crisis, and a heat wave. It is an act of sanctioned murder for the City to dismantle these encampments during an extreme heat warning, particularly when there is nowhere to go for shade or shelter. When Our Streets asked what housing options would be made available to residents being decamped, they were given no answer. This violates the City’s MOU on decampment and pushes unhoused residents into life-threatening danger.
We are also in the midst of an ever-worsening housing affordability crisis. The City of Vancouver continues to push poor and working-class residents into housing insecurity and homelessness by greenlighting mass evictions and refusing to protect vulnerable tenants. The existing affordable housing stock is quickly diminishing due to landlord neglect, demolition, and rent increases and is increasingly being replaced by deeply unaffordable rental and condo buildings. The VTU condemns the City for collaborating in this displacement and replacement of the poor for profit. It is unconscionable that the City refuses to protect tenants from being evicted onto the street in the first place, then continues to displace and steal the belongings of those who have nowhere else to go.
For our unhoused neighbours, two of the only options are to live in hyper-surveilled and hyper-policed shelter environments where their rights are revoked, or to live in public spaces where they are at constant risk of further displacement and hostility at the hands of police and city workers. This situation is a failure of all levels of government to respond to the urgent need for safe, accessible, autonomous, welfare-rate housing.
The #StopTheSweeps Coalition has been working tirelessly to implement a block stewardship program to find community-led solutions, including those related to fire hazards. We call on the City of Vancouver to work in good faith with the Coalition and and immediately address the urgent needs identified, including but not limited to:
The City of Vancouver and BC Housing must provide liveable, dignified, and accessible housing to all
- As well, both institutions must take accountability for the inhumane living conditions currently present in Single Room Occupancies (SROs)
- If the City and BC Housing fail to provide any housing options there must be alternative locations provided for folks to tent without threats of eviction
- The City of Vancouver must provide an adequate number of appropriate hygienic facilities such as bathrooms and showers to residents of the DTES, whether housed or unhoused
The Fire Department must acknowledge the unique set of needs our community faces with the overlap of a toxic drug supply, lack of adequate housing, daily police violence, and effects of intergenerational trauma resulting from colonization
- To reflect this, they must adopt a true harm reduction approach to fire safety
- Fire Chief Karen Fry must reverse the fire order
- The immediate end to enforcement of bylaws created to criminalize poverty
The Vancouver Tenants Union will continue to stand in solidarity with the Our Streets program and unhoused residents living in the Hasting Street tent city. If the City of Vancouver proceeds with this decampment, we will not stand idly by.
Vancouver Tenants Union