For Immediate Release
Monday, November 11, 2019
SURREY, BC (Unceded Coast Salish Territories): Five homeless people lost their belongings this morning when police and bylaw officers raided their tents, which they had pitched in a North Surrey strip mall for the night. “They left us with nothing but the clothes on our backs,” said Sean, one of the victims of the raid.
At 8:00am on Monday, November 11th, three police officers, two bylaw officers, and city workers converged on the makeshift camp. “They flew in with their lights on,” said Sean. “We thought there was a crime going on, but it turns out the crime was being homeless.” The police told the campers that they had 10 seconds to pack up camp. While they rushed to follow the police order, bylaw officers and city workers seized campers’ belongings and threw them into a crusher truck.
Campers lost bedding, clothing, money, and a brand-new sleeping pad in this morning’s raid. “We need these things to survive the cold,” said Sean. “They took what little we had. Now what do we do?”
“There is a war on the poor being waged in Surrey and across BC,” said Isabel Krupp, a member of Alliance Against Displacement. “Homelessness increased in Surrey by 49 percent between 2014-2017. Instead of building affordable housing, the government has responded to this crisis by pouring resources into criminalizing homeless people’s survival.”
During this morning’s raid, campers asked police, “Where are we supposed to go?”; the police responded, “Not here.” According to Sean, “They act like we choose to be on the streets. But all the shelters are full; housing is unaffordable. There is nowhere else for us to be.”
The five people who lost their belongings this morning are calling for an end to the police and bylaw targeting of homeless people in Surrey, and for disciplinary action against the constable who led this morning’s raid. Campers are waiting to learn the name of the constable, who they say has a pronounced history of harassing homeless people in Whalley. “He calls us junkies and threatens us,” said Sean. “Once he threatened to crush my tent with me in it.”
“What happened to us this morning was horrendous, but it happens all the time, all across Surrey,” said Sean. “It has to stop.”