By Ivan Drury
Originally published in The Volcano
To paraphrase Leo Tolstoy: all well-housed people are alike; each homeless person is homeless in their own way. Although homelessness is different in different towns and cities throughout British Columbia, it is all rooted in the same poverty and government cuts to social housing and anti-poverty programs. This year anti-displacement activists have begun organizing between tent cities, building a stronger, united movement of communities experiencing different forms of housing crisis and displacement pressures.
The first experiment with cross-tent city solidarity was on February 25th, when the government threatened Victoria Super InTent City with eviction. Alliance Against Displacement organized a solidarity brigade and over 40 homeless and formerly homeless people converged on the province’s capital. Representatives came from Dignity Village in Abbotsford, Cliff Avenue Tent City in Maple Ridge, and 2014’s Oppenheimer Park Tent City in Vancouver. At the rally held in the heart of the tent city, Super InTent City resident Mud said she was defending the tent city because, “We need spaces where we can look out for each other and take care of each other, because the city, the province and the government is not doing it for us.” The convergence showed that the circle of care and mutual aid in tent cities can be expanded beyond local residents to care for each other when we come under attack.
Then, on April 13th, 30 homeless and low-income people from the Downtown Eastside trekked out to Maple Ridge to support homeless people there against rising anti-homeless hate. Often held back by a vocal anti-homeless sentiment and violent threats, the Maple Ridge street community was able to block and march up Lougheed Highway to Quality Inn because of the support of the anti-displacement movement outside Maple Ridge. With greater confidence, former residents of the Maple Ridge street population called another demonstration just three weeks later, on the one-year anniversary of the beginning of their last tent city.
Back at the Victoria Super InTent City rally, Tiny from Abbotsford Dignity Village explained that within the common problem is an opportunity. “There is a battle going on everywhere,” he said. “It is not just in Abbotsford where we got chicken manure dumped on us, the battle is raging across British Columbia.” As tent cities grow, their power as sites of protest and resistance grows too… and the emergence of solidarity between tent cities is a sign that this resistance is becoming a social movement.