On Tuesday May 2nd, residents of the Rain City and Caring Place shelters, former residents of the Cliff Avenue tent city, and supporters marched to a city-owned wooded lot and launched the “Anita Place Tent City.”
Named in honour of Anita Hauck, who died in a clothing bin in September 2015, the Anita Place Tent City rests on the legacy of Anita and the Maple Ridge low-income community. We struggle against the indifference of both the Liberals and NDP, neither of whom include measures in their election platforms to relieve our poverty and homelessness. And we resist the dehumanizing bigotry of Ridgeilante (Maple Ridge vigilante) anti-homeless hate. We are starting the tent city so that we can be safe in our greater numbers, and so we can fight for the homes we need.
Below is the founding declaration of Anita Place. We are claiming this public property as our home. The City recently fenced it off to pretend it is not a community space, but this lot (which our community refers to as a the Lower 30) has always been a place to sleep for some, and a common social space for many in the Maple Ridge street population. We believe that the City only fenced it off in order to try to keep us out after the closure of the Rain City shelter. We plan to stay in Anita Place until BC Housing builds social housing here.
We are demanding that the City of Maple Ridge publicly dedicate this land for social housing. That means the housing must be affordable at welfare and pension rate. It must not be institutional, it must just be regular apartments where we can live and our kids and families can live with us or visit, which should be considered culturally appropriate for Indigenous peoples’ housing.
And we are calling on the Parties in the BC election to promise that, if elected, you will fund and build this housing. For too long the BC government has denied the humanity of low-income and unhoused Maple Ridge residents, bowing instead to the hate of a vocal minority in Maple Ridge. We call on the Liberals and NDP to end your partnership and catering to Ridgeilantes and instead do what’s right: end houselessness by building the social housing we need. As our banner says – we need homes not shelters!
This news conference is part of Alliance Against Displacement’s anti-election week of action against homelessness as the new normal. Although the 2017 BC election is taking place during the worst homelessness and eviction crisis in recent BC history, neither the BC NDP nor the BC Liberals have made grappling with or ending homelessness part of their platforms. The message sent through this silence is that the future of BC will include homelessness. We resist this “new normal,” and refuse to accept a world with homelessness.
Anita Place Founding Declaration
We, the street population, are the heart and soul of Maple Ridge. We are taking unused City-owned land to protect ourselves against the hostility of the government and property owners because we experience safety in numbers, and to improve our lives and better contribute to the community we love. We want the City to publicly dedicate this land for social housing and for the Provincial Parties to promise to build social housing here if they are elected.
This camp is named “Anita Place” in honour of Anita Hauck, who we lost in September 2015. Anita was a beloved leader in the Maple Ridge street population, whether as a social worker or later as an unhoused resident of Cliff Avenue Tent City. Before Cliff Avenue, Anita slept in this wooded lot where she was a centre of the social life of our community.Anita Place is our new homeWe are a self-organized community. We don’t want or need social workers to manage Anita Place or our lives. We need the same municipal support that all Maple Ridge residents expect and receive.
This site is important to us because it is a long-standing low-income community space. Many of us have camped here on and off through the years. It has been a living room for our community when we’ve had nowhere else to go.
Homes not shelters
A shelter is not a home. The Rain City shelter has provided us with basic survival services for a year and a half, but we are human beings and we need more than basic survival.
More than basic survival isn’t luxury. It is having your own room, your own door you can close and lock. It is having a home where your kids are. We have our kids taken away because the government provides shelters where our kids aren’t allowed. It is being able to turn off the lights to sleep and turn up the heat if you’re cold or open a window if you’re hot. It is feeling safe and not having to keep your guard up. It is having a friend over to play cards.
We are staying until the Provincial and Federal government builds social housing here. Maple Ridge owns this empty lot, and we call on Mayor Read to declare this property for that social housing and challenge the other levels of government to step up.
We are just one site in a major housing crisis. We are demanding homes for all unhoused people in BC. We in Maple Ridge stand united with unhoused and low-income communities everywhere.
Good homes, good food, good health
Housing and health and social services must be provided according to the health needs of each person, not bundled into institutions branded as homes. Some people say there should be drug treatment before housing, but if there’s no housing to go into then we go from treatment back to a warehouse shelter or back to the streets where it’s really hard to stay off drugs. We need housing where we can feel secure and go into and come back from treatment.
So-called “supportive housing” means being isolated from our kids and families, whether biological or social families. We can’t get custody of our kids in supportive housing because minors aren’t allowed and the units are so small. We can’t have guests when we want or overnight. Supportive housing continues to break up Indigenous peoples’ families at a time of so-called reconciliation.
Support the street population today
We call on the City and Province to provide us regular services and facilities including health services like harm reduction and on-site counseling, garbage pickup, water, toilets, and access to nutritious food.