We acknowledge that the residents of We Exist Tent City are seeking shelter and protection on the unceded and occupied core territories of the Kwikwetlem nation, and within the shared territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, Squamish, and Sto’:lo nations.
Homeless people exist! Two years after former PoCo Mayor Greg Moore claimed “we don’t have any chronically homeless people living on our streets,” the 2017 homeless count found 117 homeless people in all of the Tri-Cities. Despite the drastic increase found in the 2017 homeless count, which is itself an underestimate, nothing is being done to address the homelessness crisis in the Tri-Cities. Social workers cannot outreach us into housing that does not exist. RCMP and Bylaw officers have forced us into hiding and made us feel unwelcome in our own cities. But we are not hiding anymore.
We Exist Tent City is taking unused City-owned land to protect ourselves against the hostility of the government, bylaw and RCMP officers, vigilantes in the public, and the dangers – the cold, isolation, overdose, and bear-attack – of living scattered, alone, and invisible in the bush. The Tri-Cities’ “solution” to homelessness is to have bylaw and RCMP officers bully us constantly. Bylaw officers regularly steal all of our belongings, forcing us to constantly start over and pushing us deeper into the bush to camp. RCMP officers threaten us any time we pause in public and tell us to move to other cities, like Maple Ridge or Edmonton. We refuse to spend our lives being pushed from place to place. We Exist Tent City is a place for homeless people not welcome anywhere in the Tri-Cities, a community hub where we can support and care for each other, and a protest site where we homeless activists are fighting for housing justice.
Homes not shelters
We call for the Tri-Cities Councils to declare the City-owned property at 3030 Gordon for social housing, and for BC Housing and the Federal government to build homes here. Homeless shelters manage and maintain homelessness; to end homelessness we need social housing built by governments using tax dollars, with rents fixed at welfare shelter rate and affordable to people on basic pension and with the lowest incomes.
Our community-based “homeless peoples registry” has counted 67 people living on the streets in just one part of Coquitlam. There are hundreds of homeless people in the Tri-Cities, and thousands living on the edge of homelessness. We are calling for 200 modular housing homes to be built immediately and for the Province to build 10,000 units of social housing every year throughout BC, including in the Tri-Cities.
Tenant rights not “supportive housing” institutions
We demand more than the basic survival offered to us by shelters and supportive housing: we demand homes. Home is having your own room, your own door you can close and lock. Home is a place where your kids can live or visit you. Home 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. Home is feeling safe and not having to keep your guard up. It is having a friend over to play cards. “Supportive housing” pathologizes and dehumanizes us. Supportive housing continues to break up Indigenous peoples’ families at a time of so-called reconciliation.
Support We Exist Tent City
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. We are a self-organized community. We don’t want or need social workers to manage We Exist Tent City or our lives. We need the same municipal support that all Tri-Cities residents expect and receive.