In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Red Braid is distributing information, offering resources, and organizing poor and homeless communities across the Lower Mainland. The following is an adapted version of the flyer that we are distributing. We encourage others to download, adapt, and distribute the flyer in their own communities. Click here to download a PDF of our COVID-19 flyer (version 2).
COVID-19 is an illness caused by a newly identified type of coronavirus, a category of viruses that includes the cold and SARS. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, which means COVID-19 is spreading rapidly around the world. COVID-19 is causing a panic because it spreads like the flu, but is more deadly than the flu.
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Social isolation works for the rich, but the poor need to fight back.
As COVID-19 hits Canada, the government has closed the borders, shut down gathering places like libraries and community centres, and has called for people to stay home.
But what about people who can only wash their hands in libraries? Who sleep within breathing distance of others on shelter mats? Who line up and eat in soup kitchens? Who already have compromised immune systems?
Poor and homeless people have the highest risk of getting and being harmed by COVID-19 but have the least resources. Poverty means our communities don’t have resources to individually “self-isolate.” Poor and unhoused people also face discrimination from governments, police, and the public. It’s a deadly combination.
We won’t get help from cops, borders, or social workers. We’re the only ones who can save our communities. But who are “we”? When Prime Minister Trudeau shut the border, he gave the message that the danger is foreign. But poor communities in Canada are in the same boat as migrants and refugees in detention centres and poor people around the world.
The coronavirus does discriminate between the business and property owning public and those treated as a threat to that public. While the rich hole up in their castles, the rest of us have to unite and fight against being interned as a threat to public health in prisons, immigration detention centres, shelters and modular housing where we risk being exposed-to rather than protected-from COVID-19. We fight for homes, food, freedom, and health for all.
Five demands for COVID-19
We have adapted these five demands from a call-out circulating online from a network of grassroots socialist groups in the USA.
The COVID-19 crisis stacks on top of the long crisis of colonization and capitalism and is different for the poor than the rich. People with homes and savings can stay and work from home or take time off but poor workers can’t, and poor unemployed people don’t have these private spaces to retreat to.
People in shelters have nowhere else to go but the streets, and both places mean death. People in prisons are locked down in a coronavirus hothouse, not quarantine. Poor Indigenous and working class communities will only survive COVID-19 if we fight back together!
Squat the empties!
On March 14, homeless members of the group Reclaiming Our Homes took over a vacant, publicly-owned house in Los Angeles. The house is now home to seven people, including two homeless mothers and their children.
“With the coronavirus, they want us to be quarantined in our homes, but some of us don’t have homes,” said Martha Escudero, one of the homeless women who is part of the squat. Benito Flores, another member of Reclaiming Our Homes, said, “They say it’s a crime to come and occupy these houses. But this is not a crime. This is justice.”
In Canada, government responses prioritize business and property owners. To be able to quarantine, our communities must first cooperate to break the laws of property and profit.
Our communities will be hit the hardest by COVID-19, unless we take actions to demand what we need. We must support each other wherever we are able, and we must fight against the containment and isolation of our communities to our shelter deathbeds, and starvation, dope sickness, and overdose in SROs and modular housing.
Follow Reclaiming Our Homes on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.