“We’re not going home and we’re not giving up” – 58 W. Hastings Tent City exposes the everyday crisis of homelessness in Vancouver

Photo by Nate Crompton

On Saturday July 9th we set up a tent city at 58 W. Hastings in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. I’m one of the coordinators. I live in a shitty SRO. I strongly believe in the cause. I don’t think they should be putting up condos or apartments that cost $1,400. We are demanding 100% social housing at 58 W. Hastings.

We started the 58 Tent City because we need homes. The 58 Tent City committee believes everyone deserves their own bathroom their own kitchen no bugs no cockroaches. I used to live in Cosmo and it was gross. There were more bugs on me inside my room then there was outside in the alley. And we believe in affordable housing not supportive housing. We don’t have any freedom in supportive housing. Some people do need some supports, they need staff to check in on them. But most of us don’t. We’re adults. We want 100% low-cost housing. In supportive housing it feels like, here’s your meal, throw it in the microwave, go back to your cell. We’re all humans, it doesn’t matter if you drink rub or smoke dope. Every person in this world is an addict, it doesn’t matter if you get up in the morning with a cup of coffee.

Photo by Nate Crompton
Photo by Nate Crompton

Right now we have more than 30 tents set up; maybe 50 or 60 people staying in them. And for all the people who are set up in tents there are twice as many looking for tents. It’s really hard every night, people come looking for tents and we have to turn them away because we don’t have enough. These are people who would be somewhere else in the city. Everyone down there lives in a shitty SRO or on the street.

We’re not going home and we’re not giving up. We hope we’re going to get the Mayor to come down and talk to us. He is saying we don’t need bathrooms and we don’t need washing facilities. It’s because he doesn’t want us to stay there. When we’re all together, people can drive by and say “Holy! Look!” But when we’re spread out through the alleys and the parks we’re not visible to the public. They see people one at a time and it doesn’t add up the same as when they see us all together. Gregor sees it as bad for Vancouver’s image but I think it’s great. We need to show the world what happens to us every day.

I’m on the board of VANDU and I was homeless for many years. I remember the cops driving around for hours watching us set up for hours. As soon as the last person was done and comfortable and ready to sleep, they would shut us down and drive us out. And then when you found another place the garbage crew comes around and throws away everything you own. They think it’s all garbage. We’re all trash to them. So that’s why I’m one of the founders at the tent city, I know we deserve better.

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