From Apartment Renoviction to Anita Place Tent City

The link between mass evictions and mass homelessness: An interview with Libby

I met Libby when I knocked on her door in an apartment building up the street from Anita Place Tent City. We had heard rumours that the building was being renovicted one floor at a time by a new landlord and made fliers and went through the building to talk to people and help them file disputes against their eviction through the Residential Tenancy Branch. Alliance Against Displacement held a news conference to call for the newly elected NDP to take action and stop the renoviction. Residents of Anita Place took part in the door knocking and also in the news conference. We said that the only difference between people facing evictions and people who are already homeless is time. Tracy Scott said that the government won’t care for the people being evicted but that the campers would make space for anyone who needs it at Anita Place.

The NDP did not stop the renoviction and the landlord paid off tenants to leave their apartments before the arbitration hearings could happen. Two elderly brothers who lived together in a 1 bedroom were the first to move into camp. They also shared a tent and, I think because they had been in the news, had been assigned social workers who re-housed them after a couple months. Libby and another woman were the next ones to move in. Out of 8 people renovicted from that one apartment building, 4 of them moved into Anita Place tent city.

Libby’s story shows the connection between working peoples’ already-insecure rental housing, state policy gaps that support landlords to renovict and demovict to pad their pocketbooks, and homelessness. And while she is not happy to be in Anita Place – without it she would be in an even worse situation. The government and landlords are destroying our homes and refusing to support the displaced; in this context, tent cities emerge as an autonomous and invaluable community service.

Renovicted tenants, Anita Place residents, and AAD members hold a news conference against renovictions, July 31 2017

I came here because of the renoviction of the apartment building up the street. I was living in a 1 bedroom there with 3 other people – me, my boyfriend, and another couple. I’m on disability and I couldn’t find a place that I could afford for me or for me and my boyfriend. We couldn’t find a place that we could afford that would also rent to us. Most places won’t rent a bachelor suite to 2 people and anything bigger we couldn’t afford. So we found another couple we could live with. It was actually working great; we found people we could live with. It was good; while we had a place, my boyfriend was going to school to be a glazier, apprenticing. You can’t do that without a place but he was doing it while we had our apartment.

The building where we lived was bought by a new landlord and they started evicting everyone to do renovations and raise the rent. I didn’t know that we were being evicted because the landlord talked to my roommate, who wanted to keep the compensation money for herself. I only found out I was being evicted because people from the camp came and knocked on my door. I found out I was being evicted with less than a month before the eviction. My roommate told the landlord that I had already moved out and he took me off the lease without talking to me about it. And he gave my roommate my damage deposit to cover the rent she didn’t pay. I didn’t dispute the eviction because I didn’t know what was happening and because I didn’t know my rights.

When the landlord came, my room mate refused to leave and so I stayed too. He came back with $1,500 cash and said he’d give it to us if we left. I got $500 of it and we both left right then.

I rented a storage space the day before and moved my stuff in there. My things I needed, I packed in a suitcase and I came to the tent city. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I stayed for two nights in a hotel because I didn’t want to admit that I was out of choices and then I was broke. I had just enough money left to buy a tent, and I set it up in the tent city.

I came to tent city because I know other people who have set up tents in other places and they got harassed all the time by the municipality. So many people were here who weren’t getting rushed out, so I knew I could too. I had stayed in the Rain City shelter the winter before for two weeks, after having been on the street for about 6 months. I was couch surfing and sleeping in the park. Mainly, I’d walk around all night and try to stay awake until the sun comes up. I’m scared to sleep outside in the dark. I’m scared here too. As much as I’m thankful for this place, I don’t like it.

I lived in camp until September, when I found a place in Mission with two brothers. One of them got in a fight with the landlord and we got evicted. I thought we’d move into a new place together but they cancelled our plans at the last minute so I’m back in camp.

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