Welcome to Super InTent City!

There are a lot of people talking about homelessness these days. Not very many of those people are homeless. We created this site to bust myths and to share our views, hopes, and dreams with the public. We want people to be talking about homelessness, but we want people to have informed opinions. We don’t want to be spoken for. We hope this site helps!

Super InTent City is the result of the daily displacement and criminalization of homeless people and the failure of government programs that are supposed to help the homeless. We have grown to be a symbol of power of homeless people to manage our own homes and lives. We are the solution.

Why We Need InTentCity

We arrived on the courthouse lawn in October and November of 2015. We stayed because this lawn is not subject the City bylaws that make camping in City of Victoria parks illegal from 7am-7pm. We suffered physical and psychological distress from daily displacement and finally found a place to rest and take care of our physical, emotional and mental well being. We found home, community and safety. Read more about Super InTentCity as home to Victoria’s homeless.

Against Displacement

And we are still here. Despite raising awareness about the housing crisis, the Provincial government continues to offer us temporary solutions and no real housing. Read more about our criticism of these displacement solutions.

There are still over 100 people at InTent City because the Province severely underestimated the number of homeless people in Victoria. There are many people that moved to these temporary housing and shelter options and now they are full. We know that the seasonal shelters are closing soon and there will be many more people on the streets by the summertime.

Our Stories

Our goal is to run our own housing by and for low income people. We have the expertise to run our own shelters and housing and we don’t need service providers to do it for us. In shelters and “supportive” housing our rights are violated and there are no transparent mechanisms to lodge complaints. Read our real life stories about human rights violations in shelters, supportive housing, police, bylaw, security guards, etc… and share your own!

What We Fight For

On February 25th, we hosted residents from shelters, “supportive” housing, and tent cities facing displacement in Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Burnaby and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Emerging from this historic gathering is a four-point declaration of principles for a BC-wide anti-displacement and housing justice movement.

We are currently facing displacement as the Province has applied for an injunction to move us along once again. We are fighting it and have secured great lawyers to support us. If we are forced to move from the courthouse lawn, we are asking for a piece of land close to the downtown core, close to services, that we can manage and run, and keep our tents up 24/7.

Press Release: Super InTent City Residents Release Housing Demands on Eviction Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (August 8 2016)

VICTORIA, LEKWUNGEN TERRITORY: Monday, August 8th marks the court ordered eviction day for residents of Super InTent City (SIC). After almost 10 months, many will move on to permanent, supportive housing at the former Central Care Home, the hard won victory of tent city. On this day, residents of SIC declare that the fight for affordable and appropriate housing is not over and release their collective demands for housing going forward.

According to tent city resident Jamie Greene: “The new housing facility will house 147 of us. In the last homeless count there were almost 1400 homeless people in Victoria, which means the government has permanently housed 10% of the current homeless population in Victoria.” Greene continued, “We will continue to organize and fight for those who have been left behind, those in temporary shelters, living in cars or on couches, being evicted, youth, and those who are falling into homelessness every day.”

As a legacy of SIC, residents are releasing a document with their collective demands for housing. These demands represent almost 10 months of meetings to come to consensus on key elements of housing for low income people, including the need for an increased stock of affordable housing at welfare rates, the need for resident self-determination and control over their own housing, permanent homes and not temporary shelters, processes of accountability for housing providers, and no policing or surveillance in housing. The demands also describe elements of safe and decent housing that should be as available to people with low incomes as people with higher incomes, such as sufficient privacy and living space (including private bathrooms), proper maintenance of building, being able to have guests and family visit, being able to have companion animals, and being treated with respect by housing staff.

According to tent city resident, Doug: “We need to be treated as human beings and to have control over our homes and lives. We need to feel safe and secure in our homes so that we don’t wind up back on the street.” He continued: “The purpose of these collective demands is to guide decisions and operations about housing for us going forward.”

SIC residents arrived on the courthouse lawn in October, 2015 due to a housing crisis with close to 0.0% vacancy in units affordable for low income people. People reported experiencing evictions, poor treatment, and discrimination when accessing housing in the past. People stayed at SIC for the safety, security, and self-determination they found in running their own space, looking after themselves and their community.

The housing demands of SIC are consistent with years of local research says Dr. Bernie Pauly, a housing researcher and Scientist at the Centre for Addictions Research of BC. According to Pauly, “We need affordable housing, but appropriate housing is just as important to successfully house people. The collective demands are not presumptive; they are basic, like wanting to have a say in housing, wanting privacy, wanting to have notice before entry into rooms, and being able to cook their own food. These are elements of good housing for everyone and low income people should be afforded them as well.”

Residents of SIC have already provided the Portland Hotel Society with a list of their housing demands and will send to all housing service providers in the coming weeks, and continue to organize for housing justice and against displacement.

Fighting the Fence

On Saturday, July 9th the BC government erected a 12-foot tall, metal fence around Super InTent City. The newspaper reports that the purpose of the fence is to keep new people out as per the court ruling that says no new homeless can move into Super InTent City. There is talk about the fence providing privacy to the residents and replacing wood fencing that had to be removed due to fire safety issues. Whatever the official reason, the fence feels to many to be a division of “us” and “them,” a physical barrier between those who are homeless and those who are housed, a symbolic gesture that reinforces othering and criminalization of homeless people. This week, residents of Super InTent City have been creating posters and banners to subvert the message of the fence. As one resident put it: “people are upset about the fence, but the way I see it, they gave us a bulletin board!” Super InTent City stands in solidarity with the 58 Tent City in Vancouver and the Burnaby Demovictions Squat! Strength in Community!

 

People unite to challenge Canada’s housing ministers

On Tuesday, June 28th, residents and supporters of Super InTent City were joined by low-income people, those living in tent cities, and facing displacement on the mainland, to rally outside a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial housing ministers in Victoria. Armed with banners and loud voices, protesters attempted to hand deliver a letter with 2 demands of the tent cities movement: “Stop criminalizing poverty and displacing the poor!” And “End homelessness now!”

Full story on the protest

Open letter to Housing Ministers

Social profiling of InTent City residents distracts from the real issue: Housing

Responding to studies detailing alarming rates of discrimination against people who are street-involved and racialized youth in Victoria, in 2013 the City of Victoria endorsed the Community Action Plan on Discrimination (CAP-D) as a means of fulfilling the City’s commitment to human rights and non-discrimination. CAP-D works with individuals and communities who are directly and disproportionately impacted by discrimination, particularly in areas such as policing and health and social services as there is evidence of institutional discrimination in these areas.

On June 6 CAP-D issued a public statement expressing concern about widespread discrimination against Super InTent City, including institutional social profiling.

As organizations and community members dedicated to building safe, inclusive and welcoming communities for all, CAP-D is troubled by widespread discrimination against Super InTent City. Some of this has taken the form of individual views – publicly expressed through the press and social media – that stigmatize and stereotype people living in poverty and oversimplify, individualize, and distort the complexities of poverty and homelessness. Such statements a diverse population, exclude perspectives of Super InTent City residents, and characterize homeless people as dangerous and dirty, inciting fear and hostility.

Additionally there have been concerning institutional responses to Super InTent City. We are particularly disturbed by over-generalizations which stigmatize and criminalize an entire group of people. The BC Representative for Children and Youth singled out Super InTent City as being particularly dangerous, ignoring the vulnerability of all street youth and youth in care and the growing of unhoused youth and desperate need for specialized youth housing. Police have publicly cited the number of calls from around Super InTent City but not any other neighbourhood, contributing to an impression that residents of Super InTent City are more likely to engage in criminal activity than other residents of the city. Police have also not provided contextual data on actual measures of crime such as number of incidents and charges laid. Calls to police can reflect many factors including social profiling and are not themselves evidence of increased crime. Although police have made statements to the media cautioning that crime rates have not significantly increased in the neighbourhood around Super InTent City, sensationalist interpretations of the limited police data continue to be widely circulated. Institutional responses like this contribute to discriminatory social profiling.

Viewing poverty and homelessness from the perspective of social profiling and discrimination has not only contributed to a growing sense of hysteria throughout Victoria, but has ultimately derailed an opportunity to collectively hold the Provincial and Federal governments to account for decades of underfunding and cutbacks to social assistance and housing. While the province has continued to provide minimal financing for affordable housing, much of this support has been put towards emergency or transitional sheltering facilities that are not actual housing options. The need for basic shelter far outweighs resources available in Victoria.

Without due attention to roots of homelessness in our community, many of the negative responses to Super Intent City have missed the mark by unjustly placing blame on those who have been most deeply and punitively impacted by the growing inequality across B.C. Stereotypes and misinformation have constrained positive steps towards developing short and long term housing solutions in Victoria. There was scathing backlash against MicroHousing Victoria’s proposal to house six people in a vacant City-owned lot to alleviate some of the housing pressure in the community. Plans for long-term supportive housing have also faced significant pushback. Even efforts to provide for basic health needs by installing clean drinking water at Super InTent City was met by an uproar of hostility and contempt.

Discrimination against people living in poverty has a profound effect on the health of those on the receiving end and negatively impacts the social cohesion and harmony of our communities. It has paralysed productive dialogue about, and development and action towards viable, long term solutions to housing insecurity in the Victoria region. It is time for the community to make a fundamental shift in how we talk about and respond to homelessness by supporting both interim measures such as tent cities and also long-term initiatives to increase permanent affordable housing. The $60 million from the Capital Regional District and the Province towards capital construction is a welcomed step towards this goal. We as a community need to demonstrate our commitment to fundamental human rights by ending discrimination and supporting initiatives that aim to make safe, adequate, and affordable housing a reality for everyone.

Full text of CAP-D public statement against social profiling

Press Release: Academics Call on BC Government to End Homelessness, Not Tent Cities

Click here for PDF version of release and original 101 signatories

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (May 27, 2016)

VICTORIA, LEKWUNGEN TERRITORY: More than 100 academics and researchers from across BC are calling on Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Housing Rich Coleman to abandon legal efforts to dismantle Super InTent City. The letter has been issued in response to renewed efforts by the provincial government to again apply to the BC Supreme Court for an interim injunction application against the homeless residents currently living in Super Intent City on the court house green space in downtown Victoria.

The letter points to growing unfounded hostility that has become common in public dialogue and media portrayals that serve to increase inaccurate perceptions about homeless and low-income people. The letter notes that, “Stigma and discrimination have profound negative impacts on individual and group health and well-being, especially for those with few resources to resist such portrayals.  Equally concerning is that such animosity is obscuring the evidence and promoting inaccurate beliefs that public inconveniences may be outweighing the benefits of the tent city for its vulnerable residents.”

The letter serves to address a recent report issued by the Victoria Police Department that was produced in response to calls from the public. The letter clarifies that, “In the case of Super InTent City, the media and police are reporting that calls to police have increased. Calls to police are evidence of people making calls to police, not evidence of increases in crime.”  Tent cities have not been found to increase crime but studies have found that misconceptions of people living in poverty commonly lead to increased public complaints when tent cities are established.

An evidence-based response to homelessness would mean the provision of safe, affordable and appropriate housing using a Housing First model, a liveable income and essential health and social services such as supervised consumption sites.  To date, all of the Province’s offers to tent city residents have been temporary, transitional or emergency shelter spaces not permanent housing.

The letter calls on the Province to engage in evidence-based policy decisions that will serve the interest of the public, including unhoused individuals who are part of our communities. “Your response to Super Intent City is and will be a marker of how your government intends to respond to homelessness.  We strongly urge you to respond based on the evidence rather than based on stereotypes and discrimination.”

End Homelessness, Not Tent Cities

An Open Letter to the Province of BC from BC Academics and Researchers

Dear Minister Coleman and Premier Clark,

As BC academics and researchers, we are writing to speak against displacement of Super InTent City in downtown Victoria. Rather than use the coercive power of the courts and police to displace this tent city, we are calling for the province to see this moment as an opportunity to reverse policies and political processes that have caused displacement and homelessness to be a dominant feature in major Canadian cities today. We support public investment in real solutions to homelessness and stand with the residents of Super InTent City in the call for adequate housing, income and essential health services.

The existence of Super InTent City is visible evidence of the failure of governments to adequately deal with the legacies of colonialism and neoliberalism that governments, including your own, have created.  The critical question posed by tent city is:  Will your government continue a legacy of criminalization and displacement of homeless people or will you have the courage to see tent cities as a clarion call to action to change policies and invest in the housing units needed in this province as well as ensuring that everyone has a liveable income and access to essential health and social services? We are speaking out against an injunction today because we believe that the government treatment of Super InTent City will be a marker of your policies towards homeless and low-income people in the years to come.

Housing is the right response to homelessness

Housing First is accepted by both academia and the Canadian government as an evidence based best practice model. While Victoria has adopted a Housing First philosophy, it has not been possible to implement because the supply of housing is simply not there.[i] [ii] [iii] Victoria has a particularly acute homelessness problem because its rental housing market is unaffordable with very low vacancy rates, especially in low end of market unit, making it inaccessible to people living on low incomes. On one night in February 2016, 1,387 people were counted as homeless in Victoria (the actual number is much higher as this study could not assess the number of ‘hidden homeless’ sleeping in cars or living in overcrowded or unsafe conditions). All of these people simply do not have access to safe, affordable and acceptable housing. This number has increased since 2007.

There are current shortages in both temporary shelter and long-term housing in Victoria.[iv]  For years, Victoria shelters have run over capacity and the only available spots are mats on the floor; and often people are turned away. There are 277 people on the wait list for supported housing and more than 1400 in line for social housing, a number that has been consistent since 2009. The number of spaces available is not sufficient for the number of people in need. Although pressure wrought by Super InTent City has won some new sheltering options in Victoria, many of these are emergency shelter and temporary spaces, not permanent housing.  The Minister claims 180 spaces have been added. However, the majority of these spaces are temporary and transitional and at least 80 of these spaces are emergency shelter spaces and not actual housing units.  The situation is similar in other locations in BC. Tent cities are the product of austerity budgets that have cut social housing spending in Canada; we need to end austerity in order to end tent cities. We call for a significant investment in housing options including a regular social housing program to build at least 10,000 units of social housing (at welfare and pension rates) every year in British Columbia to help end homelessness.

Increased public hostility is not evidence of increased harm
We are deeply concerned about the increasing negative media portrayals of Super InTent City and the potential for inciting public rage towards all people who are homeless and living in poverty. It is well recognized and confirmed by academic research that media can reproduce stereotypes and accelerate narratives that serve to stigmatize and criminalize people because of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, gender, disability, sex work, poverty or HIV status. In Victoria, this includes the rise of community groups such as Mad As Hell that are promoting negative and stigmatizing portrayals of people who are homeless.  Stigma and discrimination have profound negative impacts on individual and group health and well-being, especially for those with few resources to resist such portrayals.  Equally concerning is that such animosity is obscuring the evidence and promoting inaccurate beliefs that public inconveniences may be outweighing the benefits of the tent city for its vulnerable residents.

The BC Government last applied for an injunction against Super InTent City in February. In denying the application Supreme Court Chief Justice Hinkson echoed the findings of studies in the U.S. when he found that the harms caused to tent city residents by displacement far outweighed the inconvenience caused by the existence of the tent city. A study of tent cities in the US found that it is typical for housed residents to oppose tent cities in their neighbourhoods, claiming that tent cities raise crime rates and threaten public safety. However, “evidence suggests that concerns are largely unfounded,” and that there was no significant increase in crime resulting from tent cities.[v] In the case of Super InTent City, the media and police are reporting that calls to police have increased. Calls to police are evidence of people making calls to police, not evidence of increases in crime. To report such statistics about tent city on a public website and not for other places where people mingle (such as shelters or local pubs) is an example of discrimination and social profiling. We would note that while total calls (not crime) may have increased, monthly calls in March and April showed a downward trend.  This fact was never reported.  It is well established that public outcry can create a kind of political hysteria in the community and the media that is not reflective of realities.

Public drug use demands resources not displacement
Homeless people are being blamed for issues related to drug use. Some of the recent incidents cited in the media include increased reports of used needles in public space. There is no evidence that more needles are being discarded in public since the inception of Super InTent City, and no evidence that these needles are coming from residents in Super InTent City. Compared to Vancouver, Victoria has a higher rate of public injecting and fewer harm reduction services. We know that problems such as public use of drugs, discarding of needles, and overdoses, are exacerbated by housing policies that have zero tolerance for substance use.[vi] The evidence-based response to this issue is not to displace Super InTent City, but rather to ensure that all people who use injection drugs– whether housed or unhoused – have safe places to inject and dispose of needles.

In April, your government declared a health emergency because of the unprecedented epidemic of opioid overdose deaths in British Columbia.[vii] Super InTent City residents are well trained in overdose prevention and response. While overdose deaths continue to rise province-wide, there have been no fatal overdoses in tent city in 2016. Displacing tent cities in the midst of this health crisis, particularly without prescription heroin programs and supervised consumption sites in cities outside Vancouver, may well mean government-created overdose deaths.

Tent cities are economic refugee camps
Homeless people created Super InTent City as a safe place and alternative to sleeping in parks, and doorways, and as a harbour from the daily displacement of being woken and moved-on by police and bylaw officers under the nighttime-only tenting laws. In this safer space, they have found community, which helps to counter the anxiety, fear and social isolation that homeless people often experience. Connection and community are powerful supports that promote good mental health and well-being and can counter the effects of dislocation. These resources have even been shown to act as a treatment for addiction.[viii]  To displace tent city would only serve to increase the harms of homelessness and would have a negative impact on the health, safety and well-being of those living there.

In Chief Justice Hinkson’s ruling he noted the following as specific benefits for residents of Super InTent City:

  • Physical and mental health improvements (e.g., better sleep, reduction of drug-related harm, access to regular meals)
  • Improved access to social services
  • Improved physical safety due to the strong community at Super InTent City and resulting on-site conflict resolution and crisis de-escalation
  • Safe storage for people’s belongings

This is mirrored in studies in other regions. A review of tent cities across the USA found that “governments should acknowledge that tent cities represent a self-help solution to the current lack of affordable housing. Tent cities embody particular determination in the face of hardship, and local governments should support, rather than hinder, these efforts.”[ix]

Tent cities are necessary spaces for many people to survive the conditions created and perpetuated by colonialism, neoliberalism and austerity policies. Super InTent City is like an economic refugee camp. We don’t close down refugee camps by attacking them with police and scattering their residents. Even the most cynical governments know this creates further problems and causes significant harm. We close refugee camps by housing their residents. We will no longer need such camps when we change the conditions that brought them into being.

We call on the Province to fight the urge to displace Super InTent City and we ask that you have the courage to turn the tide to address homelessness by investing in, and inspiring other governments to invest in social housing, income supports and essential health services.  Your response to Super Intent City is and will be a marker of how your government intends to respond to homelessness.  We strongly urge you to respond based on the evidence rather than on stereotypes and discrimination.

Respectfully,

  1. Dr. Bruce Wallace, Ph.D, School of Social Work and Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  2. Dr. Bernadette Pauly, RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, Scientist, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  3. Dr. Cecilia Benoit, Ph.D, Sociology, Scientist, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  4. Dr. Mikael Jansson, Ph.D, Scientist, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  5. Dr. Trudy Norman, Ph.D, Post Doctoral Fellow, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  6. Kate Vallance, MA, Research Associate, Centre for Addictions Research of BC
  7. Katrina Barber, MA Candidate, Research Associate, Centre for Addictions Research of BC
  8. Dr. Peter Hall, Ph.D, Urban Studies, Simon Fraser University
  9. Dr. Nicholas Blomley, Ph.D, Professor, Geography, Simon Fraser University
  10. Dr. Enda Brophy, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
  11. Dr. Jeff Derksen, Ph.D, Professor, English Department, Simon Fraser University
  12. Dr. Bruce Ravelli, Ph.D, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria.
  13. Dr. Shauna Butterwick, Professor, Department of Educational Studies, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
  14. Dr. Eric Roth, Ph.D, Anthopology, Scientist, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  15. Philippe Lucas, Ph.D Student, Social Dimensions of Health, Graduate Fellow, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  16. Phuc Dang, Ph.D Student, Social Dimensions of Health Program, University of Victoria
  17. Sarah Wojcik, MSc. Candidate, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  18. Dr. Michelle Stack, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
  19. Dr. (Charles) Jim Frankish, Endowed Professor, School of Population & Public Health & HELP, University of British Columbia
  20. Gillian Calder, Associate Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
  21. Dr. Susan Boyd, Ph.D, Faculty of Human & Social Development, University of Victoria
  22. Dr. William K. Carroll, Ph.D, Professor and Co-director of the Corporate Mapping Project, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria
  23. Dr. Sibylle Artz, Ph.D, School of Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria
  24. Dr. Darlene Clover, Ph.D, Faculty of Education, Leadership Studies, University of Victoria
  25. Dr. Peyman Vahabzadeh, Ph.D, Director, Cultural, Social, and Political Thought (CSPT) Program, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria
  26. Dr. Budd L Hall, Ph.D, UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria
  27. Dr. Janni Aragon, Ph.D, Director Technology Integrated Learning, University of Victoria
  28. Dr. Margo L. Matwychuk, Ph.D, Director, Social Justice Studies, Dept of Anthropology, University of Victoria
  29. Tim Richards, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
  30. Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
  31. Dr. Tara Ney, Ph.D, Associate Professor, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria
  32. Melvin Peters, MSW, School of Social Work, University of Victoria
  33. Dr. Leslie Brown, Ph.D, School of Social Work, University of Victoria
  34. Gayle Ployer, MSW, School of Social Work, University of Victoria
  35. Dr. Mehmoona Moosa-Mitha, Ph.D, School of Social Work, University of Victoria
  36. Andrew Ivsins, MA, Sociology/Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  37. Dr. Lauren Casey, Ph.D, University of Victoria
  38. Dr. Esther Sangster-Gormley, RN, PhD, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  39. Dr. Rita Schreiber, RN, Ph.D, Professor Emerita, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  40. Dr. Elvin Wyly, Ph.D, Geography Professor, University of British Columbia
  41. Megan Deyman, MPH Candidate, School of Public Health and Social Policy, Centre for Addictions Research of BC
  42. Lyn Merryfeather RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  43. Dakota Inglis, MPH, Research Associate, Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, University of Victoria
  44. Samantha Magnus, MPH, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  45. Dr. Kelli I. Stajduhar, RN, Ph.D, Professor, School of Nursing, Research Affiliate, Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health (IALH), University of Victoria, Scientist, End of Life Program, Fraser Health
  46. Barbara Fox, MSN, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  47. Dr. Noreen Frisch, RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  48. Dr. Debra Sheets, RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  49. Rebeccah Nelems, 2015 Trudeau Scholar, Sociology/ Cultural, Social and Political Thought, University of Victoria
  50. Diane Bomans, MA, School of Nursing, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  51. Dr. Lynne E. Young, RN, Ph.D, Professor, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  52. Margot Young, BA, LLB, MA, MA, Professor, Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
  53. Maureen Hobbs, RN, MN, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  54. Laurie Barnhardt, MN, Assistant Teaching Professor, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  55. Dr. Geoff Mann, Ph.D, Professor & Director, Centre for Global Political Economy, Simon Fraser University
  56. Dr. Gweneth Doane, RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  57. Dr. J. Isobel Dawson, RN, PhD, Professor Emerita, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  58. Dr. Lenora Marcellus, RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  59. Dr. Russell Callaghan, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Northern Medical Program, UNBC
  60. Pasquale Fiore, RN, MSc., Health Adm., Ph.D student, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  61. Dr. Marcia Hills, RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  62. Robert Birch, Ph.D Student, Social Dimensions of Health, University of Victoria
  63. Dr. Jacqueline Levitin, Ph.D, Associate Professor (retired), School for the Contemporary Arts, and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University
  64. Leah Shumka, Sessional Instructor, Gender Studies, University of Victoria
  65. Erin E. Donald, RN, MSN, Doctoral Student and Research Assistant, School of Nursing and Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health, University of Victoria
  66. Tina Revai, RN, MN Student, Research Assistant, School of Nursing and Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia
  67. Natalie Frandsen, RN, MN, Sessional Instructor, Schools of Nursing and Public Health & Social Policy, University of Victoria
  68. Meaghan Brown, RN, MN Student, Research Assistant, School of Nursing and Centre for Addictions Research, University of Victoria
  69. Dr. Matt Hern, Ph.D, Senior Lecturer, Urban Studies, Simon Fraser University
  70. Jessie Mantle, Professor Emerita, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  71. Erin Gilbert, MN Candidate, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  72. Patricia Mazzotta, RN, Ph.D Candidate, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  73. Dr. Karen Urbanoski, Ph.D, Canada Research Chair, Centre for Addictions Research of BC and Assistant Professor, Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria
  74. Wendy Neander, RN, Ph.D Candidate, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  75. Dr. Karen MacKinnon, RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  76. Dr. Elizabeth Bannister, RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  77. Keltie Everett RN, NP Student, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  78. Elizabeth Ringrose, RN, MN student, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  79. Geoff Cross, MA, Research Associate, Centre for Addictions Research of BC
  80. Dr. Willeen Keough, Ph.D, Associate Professor, History, Simon Fraser University
  81. Christine Upright, RN, MN, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  82. Dr. Scott MacDonald, Ph.D, Assistant Director, Centre for Addictions Research of BC
  83. Dr. Sabrina Wong, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia
  84. Dr. Steve Garlick, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria
  85. Dr. Doug Mollard, Ph.D, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria
  86. Dr. Sana Shahram, Ph.D, Post Doctoral Fellow, Centre for Addictions Research, University of Victoria
  87. Dr. Sally Thorne, RN, Ph.D, Professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia
  88. Dr. David Turner, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, School of Social Work, University of Victoria
  89. Dr. Arlene Tigar McLaren, Ph.D, Professor Emerita, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
  90. Dr. Sally A. Kimpson, RN, Ph.D, Critical Disability Studies Scholar Disability and Health Care Research, Consulting & Education
  91. Dr. Anastasia Mallidou, RN, Ph.D, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  92. Dan Reist, MTh, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  93. Betty Taylor, MSW, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria
  94. Allyson Clay, Professor, Visual Art, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University
  95. Flora Pagan, Graduate Student, School of Social Work, University of Victoria
  96. Sonya Chander, RN, MPH, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria,
  97. Alyx MacAdams, Graduate Student, School of Social Work, University of Victoria
  98. Debbie Cadrain RN, MN Student, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  99. Nathan Crompton, PhD student, History, Simon Fraser University
  100. Marion Selfridge, MSW, PhD(c), Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
  101. Bruce Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University
  102. Sally Kimpson, Ph.D, University of Victoria
  103. Emmanuelle Hebert, RN, BSN, Nurse Practitioner MSN student, University of Victoria
  104. Marcy Antonio, MPH, Doctoral Fellow
  105. Janet Allan, MSW student, University of Victoria
  106. Simon Carroll, Ph.D, University of Victoria
  107. Colleen Varcoe, RN, Ph.D, Professor University of British Columbia School of Nursing
  108. Karen M. Kobayashi, Ph.D, Associate Professor and Research Affiliate, Department of Sociology and Centre on Aging, University of Victoria
  109. Linda Shea PhD, RN, University of Victoria, School of Nursing
  110. Kelsey Rounds, Ph.D student, School of Nursing, University of Victoria.
  111. Michael Young, Ph.D, Royal Roads University.
  112. Catherine van Mossel, Ph.D Candidate, University of Victoria
  113. James K. Rowe
, Assistant Professor, 
School of Environmental Studies, 
University of Victoria
  114. Kelly Sharp, MSN student, Family Nurse Practitioner Program, University of Victoria
  115. Carol Rocker, DHA, RN, Sessional Lecturer, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
  116. Gerrit Clement, JD, Associate Professor, University of Victoria and University of Northern BC
  117. Elizabeth Vibert, Department of History, University of Victoria
  118. Laura U. Marks, Ph.D., Grant Strate University Professor, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University
  119. Crystal James, MSW, School of Social Work, University of Victoria
  120. Thomas Kerr, Ph.D, Director, Urban Health Research Initiative, British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and Professor, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia
  121. Laura Sacilotto, RN, Med. Faculty of Nursing, University of Victoria and Camosun College

Please note that the views expressed herein are those of the individuals and not their organizations.

[i] Zerger, S., et al. (2014). The role and meaning of interim housing in housing first programs for people experiencing homelessness and mental illness. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(4): 431-437.

[ii] Norman, T. and B. M. Pauly (2015). Centralized Access to Supported Housing (CASH), Victoria, BC: Evaluation of a single point of access to supported housing. Victoria, BC, Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

[iii] Pauly, B. M., et al. (2013). Facing Homelessness:  Greater Victoria Report on Housing and Supports 2012/2013. Victoria, BC, Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness and Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Loftus-Farren, Z. (2011). Tent cities: An interim solution to homelessness and affordable housing shortages in the United States. California Law Review, 99(1037),  p. 1060.

[vi] Pauly, B., Wallace, B.,Barber, K., & Jansen, K. (under review).  Turning a blind eye to substance use:  Harm reduction in the shadows of Housing First.  Submitted to International Journal of Drug Policy.

[vii] Provincial Health Officer declares public health emergency. https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016HLTH0026-000568.

[viii] Alexander, B. K. (2008). The globalisation of addiction:  A study in poverty of the spirit. Don Mills, ON, Oxford University Press.

[ix] Op cit. Loftus-Farren, p., 1060.

Press Release: Tent City Residents Oppose the Management of their Homes and Lives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (April 19, 2016)

VICTORIA, LEKWUNGEN TERRITORY: On Thursday, April 14th, the Provincial government announced plans to contract Portland Hotel Society (PHS) to manage Super InTent City (SIC), the tent city on the Victoria Courthouse lawn. After meeting with PHS representatives, SIC has decided to insist on their own self-management of their camp and lives. SIC opposes management by PHS or any third party, and demands that the Province divert resources from PHS to the tent city residents themselves.

On April 5th, the BC Supreme Court Judge Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson refused to grant an interim injunction to remove the camp’s residents. Chief Justice Hinkson read evidence from residents and supporters of SIC highlighting the significant health and safety benefits of SIC for its residents including physical and mental health improvements, improved access to services, improved physical safety due to the strong community at SIC, and leadership development within the camp. The judge praised the “responsible leadership and organization” at the camp, and the camp’s efforts to establish effective lines of communication with health and safety authorities.

“The Judge’s decision means that the government can’t send the police in and displace us,” says camp resident Roddy G., “So the government went behind our backs and hired a third party manager despite the fact that we have been more than willing to negotiate with them directly about addressing safety and health conditions that we very much want to improve.”

According to Ana McBee: “The contracting of a third party manager undermines our ability to develop leadership within the camp to run our own homes and lives.” Anna continued, “We have created ‘SIC Society,’ a non-profit to represent the interests of unhoused people, and to manage our own shelters and housing. We’ve asked for direct communication and resources from the government to help manage SIC and we need to be in control of those resources.”

The government is responsible for the housing crisis that has put people out on the street. Residents demand that any resources the government is offering be managed directly by the camp instead of a third party manager. Leading up to the September trial, residents of SIC are asking that the government provide permanent camping areas close to the downtown core, and immediately begin making accessible affordable, independent, housing units for people on fixed incomes.

Court ruling: Super InTent City staying for now

On February 29, 2016, the BC government filed for an injunction to order the eviction of residents of Super InTent City. If granted the injunction would authorize government officials to remove people’s shelters and belongings from the site, and grant police the authority to arrest and remove Super InTent CityZens not complying with the requested court order. This case will be heard in September 2016.

As part of the process the government requested an interim injunction to remove residents and their belongings immediately, while the broader case was under consideration.

The hearing for the interim injunction took place on March 11-15 and the judge, BC Supreme Court judge Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson, released his decision on April 5. Chief Justice Hinkson ruled against the government and in favour of Super InTent City, refusing to grant an interim injunction to remove the camp’s residents. The decision is an important victory for people living in tent cities and for people experiencing poverty generally.

Video: Super InTent City celebrates the decision

Highlights of the court decision

The BC government did not clearly establish that the camp is a “public nuisance” as that term is defined by law, and there was not sufficient evidence that the BC government would experience irreparable harm if the camp was allowed to remain.

Balance of convenience

The central issue that the judge considered was which party (the BC government or Super InTent City residents) experienced a greater “inconvenience” as that term is defined by law. In previous cases where governments have applied for injunctions to remove tent cities, judges in BC have consistently found that the balance of convenience supported evicting tent cities because the impacts that the tent cities caused to local governments was greater than the impacts that would be caused to tent city residents by displacing them. These previous decisions in part reflect what evidence was presented by government as the harms being caused by tent cities, and also what evidence was listened to in terms of the harm that would be caused by displacement. Another key issue is that previous cases have been related to tent cities on municipally controlled land whereas in this case the provincial government controls the land.

In previous cases, judges ruled that tent cities created negative impacts by preventing public use of the land and by concentrating density of fire hazards, noise, drug use, and illegal activity to such a degree that hazards were created for tent city residents and also members of the public. In this case, Chief Justice Hinkson noted that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that nuisances reported by neighbours or police were caused by residents of Super InTent City or to conclusively establish that there are health and safety risks specific to the camp compared to that experienced by homeless people in other locations in Victoria. Instead, the judge held that many of the allegations about hazards at Super InTent City are caused by homelessness itself: “I am not satisfied on the evidence before me that many of the problems alleged by the plaintiffs are the unique result of the existence of the Encampment, and are not simply part of the reality of homelessness”.

Chief Justice Hinkson acknowledged that for some people who had used the courthouse lawn prior to the establishment of Super InTent City, the camp had diminished its aesthetic and recreational value. However, he also found that these impacts were a minor inconvenience compared to the harm that would be caused to the residents of the camp if the camp were disbanded. The judge stated that residents “simply have nowhere to move to, if the injunction were to issue, other than shelters that are incapable of meeting the needs of some of them, or will result in their constant disruption and a perpetuation of a relentless series of daily moves to the streets, doorways, and parks of the City of Victoria”.

Benefits of Super InTent City

As the previous quote indicates, the judgment recognized the extensive harm caused by the daily displacement of people who are homeless, and contrasted this with the benefits of Super InTent City as noted by its residents and community supporters. Specific benefits of the camp noted in the ruling were:

  • physical and mental health improvements (e.g., better sleep, reduction of drug-related harm, access to regular meals)
  • improved access to services
  • improved physical safety due to the strong community at Super InTent City and resulting on-site conflict resolution and crisis de-escalation
  • safe storage for people’s belongings
  • opportunities for relationship building between government authorities and Super InTent CityZens
  • opportunities for homeless and housed people to learn from each other, strengthened sense of community or “neighbourliness,” and connectedness between Super InTent CityZens and housed neighbours
  • leadership development within the camp

The judge praised the “responsible leadership and organization” at the camp, and the camp’s efforts to establish effective lines of communication with police, fire and public health authorities.

In recognizing the beneficial effects of Super InTent City on its residents, Chief Justice Hinkson took an important step away from previous litigation on tent cities which held, despite evidence to the contrary, that tent cities were harmful to their residents. Instead, the judge listened to the oral testimony and evidence put forward by Super InTent City residents and supporters and created an important precedent that in certain circumstances the courts recognize that tent cities alleviate harms to homeless people. This is a unique and historic gesture of support for tent cities from the BC court.

Inadequacy of mainstream shelters

Another key finding is that Chief Justice Hinkson disagreed with the BC government’s assertion that alternative shelters are available for everyone living at Super InTent City. The judge ruled that in Victoria the number of people who are homeless continues to exceed available beds and shelters “by a considerable amount”, and also that the existing shelters are not appropriate for some unhoused people.

In previous rulings the right to set up temporary shelter outside was conditional on there being insufficient numbers of shelter beds — in other words if a shelter bed is available there is no legal right to seek your own alternative, even if that shelter bed doesn’t meet your needs. In this case Chief Justice Hinkson didn’t explicitly define why existing shelters are not accessible to everyone but he identified many barriers to accessing shelters including noise, overcrowding, concerns about safety of self or belongings, past trauma being triggered by shelter location (e.g., in a youth jail), stigma faced by shelter users, and restrictive rules including curfews that don’t work for everyone and end up resulting in individuals being banned or otherwise unable to meet access criteria. The judge specifically noted that “[m]any of the current residents of the Encampment have had extremely negative experiences in the current shelter system, where large groups of high needs individuals are crowded together with minimal support, and rigid rules regarding attendance make it difficult to secure or maintain a spot”.

In this finding, Justice Hinkson provided important content for what types of shelters and housing options need to be provided in order to be accessible for people with barriers to entry to the current shelter system and emphasized that it is not only the number of beds available that matters, it is also whether those beds meet existing needs.

Displacement is not a solution

Finally, Justice Hinkson recognized that displacement of Super InTent City is not a solution to homelessness and shifting people from the provincial courthouse lawn into city parks will not improve things for residents of Super InTent City, housed neighbours, or the different levels of government. In doing so, he held that the provincial government needs to take steps to provide housing and shelter and made a clear statement that the court will not just allow the provincial government to offload responsibility onto municipalities.

Despite this important positive precedent, the camp is still under threat of removal by a permanent injunction, to be heard in September. The judge specifically noted in his decision that “It is inappropriate at this stage for me to determine whether the defendants will be permitted to maintain a permanent encampment on the Courthouse Green Space in the future. It may well be that they are unable to make out such a case”. With this legal uncertainty it is important that people continue to support Super InTent City and call on the BC government not to pursue an agenda of displacement.