Shane’s eviction, similar to the evictions of residents of RainCity’s shelter side, was arbitrary. At the beginning of the month, he knocked on a friend’s door on the shelter side of 3030 Gordon. Instead of finding his friend, he was hit in the head with a steel bar by the person inside the room. Shane fought back to defend himself as the fight spilled into the hallway, where RainCity has surveillance cameras.
Shane was told by a RainCity manager, Danielle, that he was immediately evicted for violating RainCity’s “zero tolerance for physical violence” policy. Shane explained, “I had videos to prove [that I was attacked] but they wouldn’t even look at the videos. I had defensive wounds on my arm and they didn’t care. When [Danielle] brought me in for the interview, she didn’t give me a chance to talk, she didn’t listen to me, she just said you’re kicked out.”
Shane was not served with a paper eviction notice and told to leave on the spot and that his electronic key card had been revoked. But because he still had a key to his suite, he immediately went and barricaded himself in, climbing in and out of his window in order to sleep in the suite he’d paid for for the next two weeks.
About a week after the fight, Shane found out that the person who had attacked him had just been tested positive for Covid-19. He asked staff why they had not done any contact tracing and notified him. They said, “We don’t know who he does and doesn’t interact with.”
Then on March 15, RainCity called the Coquitlam RCMP to evict Shane, after claiming that they had had his March rent refunded to welfare. The RCMP, dutifully acting like a private security force for RainCity, removed Shane, claiming he was trespassing and would be charged with Break and Enter if he kept living in his suite.
As far as landlords go, RainCity has a great deal – unlike other landlords they don’t have to jump through the hoops of getting bailiffs to do their evictions for them.
Shane was told by staff that they could get him into a shelter in New West, a city Shane has never lived in and has no community in. He explained the impact of being booted out to the streets again. “It took me three years to get into housing. I was doing good. Even in court, the judge said the only reason he wasn’t incarcerating me was that since I went to 3030 Gordon I’ve been turning my life around, and putting me in prison would be moving backwards.”
RainCity has gone beyond the carceral logic of the courts and moved Shane backwards themselves. Shane continued, “I’m back on the street, no money, going to slip back into the old ways. I was on methadone and antidepressants, now I’m back on dope. It sucks. It’s not like I want to get back in there because I like it in there, I want to get back in there and get my suite back so I can continue looking for a place, because it’s still better than living on the street.”
RainCity claims that the housing it runs in 3030 Gordon is “transitional housing,” which unlike supportive housing, is exempt from the Residential Tenancy Act. But the law defines transitional housing as housing that is “provided on a temporary basis,” by an organization that receives funding for the purpose of providing transitional housing, and offered “with programs intended to assist tenants to become better able to live independently.”
The only thing that makes RainCity’s 3030 housing temporary is the frequency with which they evict tenants. Many residents have been living in 3030’s “transitional” housing since it was built five years ago. There is nowhere for them to transition to.
Nor are there any “programs” offered to tenants at all. The only thing Shane could point to that staff offer are harm reduction supplies.
In the context of a massive housing crisis, “transitional housing” is largely a fantasy, used as an excuse by non-profits like RainCity to abuse tenants that should be protected under the Residential Tenancy Act.
RainCity and other supportive housing operators get away with trampling tenant rights because they are part of a system, spanning police and prisons to social workers and social service agencies, that treats poor people as less than human, and therefore unentitled to the same rights that people who aren’t profiled as homeless get. Before Shane was finally evicted, he asked police officers, “My rent is paid to the first. If I’m sneaking up to climb through my window to sleep in my bed, is that Break and Enter?”
The cops told Shane that it depended on what kind of agreement he had signed when he moved in, which is legally incorrect. Contracts can’t circumvent higher laws and it is not the contract a tenant signs that determines if they are protected under the RTA, but the nature of their housing. In giving inaccurate legal advice, the cops betrayed their own biases: that they are willing to obey the commands of organizations like RainCity not because they are lawful, but because they reinforce police and state power over criminalized communities.
The collusion between RainCity and the Coquitlam RCMP to withhold tenant rights from poor people speaks to how non-profits like RainCity are part of the policing apparatus that keeps homeless people criminalized. The staff and managers who evicted Shane were acting like cops, judges, and juries all at once, showing that low-income people in Canada, once written into institutional filing systems, cannot be entitled to even a semblance of justice when it comes to matters as grave as losing their homes. For tenants like Shane, living in supportive or “transitional” housing is akin to living in an authoritarian police state.
RainCity leaves it totally to the whim of individual staff to mete out discipline and punishment to its tenants, which is why Shane observed that at 3030 “there are different rules for different people.” A RainCity staff member, Melissa, repeatedly made false claims about Shane being violent while he lived at 3030 – claims that he had no mechanism to debunk or defend himself from. At one point he was “punished” by being locked out of his home for 28 hours in response to one of her complaints. While no staff should have the absolute power to condemn and evict tenants, Melissa especially shouldn’t because she’s friends with Shane’s sister – but RainCity has no protocols for ensuring that staff members with personal relationships to tenants don’t abuse their power.
The solution to RainCity’s authoritarian practices, enabled by the police, isn’t “better” carceral institutions but organized tenants’ power. Only by rising up and kicking out social workers and frontline workers from their homes can tenants like Shane create justice and peace.