Four Principles for a Tent Cities Movement: Drafted at Super InTent City Victoria, February 2016

Drafted by a convergence of homeless people from across southern BC who converged on Super InTent City Victoria, February 25th, 2016 to defend the camp against threatened displacement by the government of BC

Emerging from a historic gathering called by Super InTent City Victoria in February 2016 is a four-point declaration of principles for a BC-wide anti-displacement and housing justice movement. This is a working document, but it outlines four central principles that will come to define a new period of struggle against homelessness, one where homeless and displaced people, a great and growing floating population, refuse to beg for services they deserve as human beings, refuse to be criminalized and institutionalized as the basic fact of their existence, and begin to take the space they need to survive.

  1. Homes not shelters! We refuse to be hidden away in temporary shelters or scattered with insecure rent subsidies. We need regular, tax-funded, social housing programs to build, every year, ten thousand units of housing available to people at welfare/pension rate in British Columbia. We don’t need service providers to run this housing for us as “supportive,” institutionalized rooms. Our social housing must be run as normal apartments, covered by the Residential Tenancy Act. But even social housing is only one part of ending poverty; housing security is impossible without lifting all people out of poverty by guaranteeing a livable income for all, whether by raising welfare and disability rates or implementing a guaranteed income program.
  2. Support tent cities! Amidst the violence of homelessness, tent cities are relatively safe and secure places for homeless people because they are self-determined community spaces. If we are displaced and scattered, we are unsafe and vulnerable, but together we are strong. Until homelessness is ended through the combined efforts of every level of government, every municipality must treat tent cities as “permanent,” run by tent city resident councils, and left alone to operate on their own terms. Tent city sites must be provided with basic amenities like water and bathrooms, be close to the downtown of cities, near the services, supports, and communities that tent city residents depend on to survive.
  3. Smash the new poor laws! End all discriminatory anti-homeless bylaws that legislate limited, night time only hours that homeless people are allowed to set up shelters in public parks. These laws mandate police and security guards to harass and brutalize homeless people and encourage an anti-homeless belief that homeless people are not part of the public. Homeless people are full-fledged members of the public and must be free to enjoy and seek shelter in public spaces as they need it, no matter the time of day.
  4. Stop the violation of our human rights! We are discriminated against and treated poorly by staff and management in shelters and “supportive housing,” and by police and bylaw officers. Because shelters and supportive housing do not fall under the Residential Tenancy Act, the staff have the final say and little recourse, and we suffer the consequences (e.g., banning, red zones, etc.). We need a process for making complaints about human rights violations that is transparent and holds people and organizations accountable. This body needs to include people who are homeless to investigate and address these complaints, and publicize widespread violations.
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