For Immediate Release
May 19th 2021
UNCEDED MUSQUEAM, SQUAMISH, & TSLEIL-WAUTUTH TERRITORY (Vancouver): Roughly 20 people living in RVs and other vehicles along Slocan and 12th Ave have been served with notices by the city ordering them to vacate by May 26th. But residents of the RV-city refuse to be shuffled around. They held a press conference yesterday and are organizing a rally on May 26th to defend their community, demand social housing, and pressure the city to stop criminalizing people whose vehicles are also their homes.
William Cook, who has been living in an RV for 5 years, explained, “We want to stay here. We’re not hurting anybody. The prejudice we’re being dealt with is completely unfair… We should have the right to come and go and pick our own neighbors, to create the community we feel comfortable with. We have to stand up for our rights right here, and make sure that we have the right to stay in our vehicles if that’s what we choose to do. The City has to back down, regroup… harassment and bullying is not the way to do it.”
Connolly Watson, who has also been living in an RV for 5 years after finding that renting an apartment left him barely able to make ends meet, echoed Cook’s point about prejudice and city harassment: “We are not criminals. I have a home, it’s right over there. I just don’t have an address. It’s wrong to turn us into criminals because we like living in an RV.”
In response to the press conference, Taryn Scollard, the city’s director of streets, smeared the RV community, using the tired talking points of debris, “human excrement,” and innocent school children to justify the city’s unnecessary displacement of RV-dwellers. She told journalists, “We’re seeing a lot of increased concerns in the area as the number of RVs increase. Some of them are leaving debris on the streets. We’ve encountered human excrement.” She went on to point to “increased interactions” between campers and high school students, leaving out that many of the campers have experienced vandalism and harassment by teenagers whom they suspect attend the nearby high school.
Listen Chen, a Red Braid member who helped organize the press conference, responded to Scollard’s comments. “Scollard’s characterization of the Slocan RV-city as a blight on clean streets and danger to children legitimizes anti-poor hatred. Rather than mitigate the worst harms of the housing crisis, the City is sanitizing public space of all evidence of poverty by smearing unhoused people as dirty, dangerous, and less than human.”
Tommy Lamontagne has been living in an RV for two years, after being evicted from supportive housing. He explained, “I don’t have the income to live in a high rise. There are many French people out here who live in a tent, in an RV, or car. Most of us live paycheque to paycheque. It’s not supposed to be like that. If we live in an RV or car, there’s a reason for that. We shouldn’t be punished because the city doesn’t want us and discriminates against us as criminals or drug addicts because we are living in an RV. That’s just wrong.”
Robert Petrie, a Red Braid member and former Oppenheimer tent city resident, came to stand in solidarity with the RV-dwellers. He said, “I’m here to advocate for the RVs, just to be able to stay, stand, and be respected as homes. Whether it’s tent or RVs, what we all have in common as people trying to live in this city is the government saying “unhoused person, you can’t use this tent or you can’t use that RV or the woods or the park or an out of the way location.” What it seems you can do is sleep in the street or an alcove or the alley way. The City is fine with that.”
Scollard says the city will continue its plan to displace the RV-dwellers on the May 26th. But the Slocan RV-city isn’t going to back down. As Tommy said, “I will not move. I will not go anywhere. If I have to get another RV because they tow mine, I’ll get another one and put it in exactly the same spot as this one.”
RV dwellers are calling a rally at 4 pm on May 26th at Slocan and 12th Ave and inviting all unhoused people who feel a stake in ending the criminalization of poverty and houselessness to join them in defending their community.