Vancouver RV camp refuses to obey City-ordered eviction
For two years, roughly twenty people living in RVs and other vehicles have called the “East Van RV City” home. But at the end of April, the City delivered notices ordering the community parked at Slocan and 12th Avenue to vacate by May 26th. Large RVs aren’t allowed to park for longer than three hours at a time in most areas of Vancouver, and overnight parking is prohibited in all residential areas. The City’s displacement order is an attempt to shuffle vehicle-dwellers around under constant threat of tickets or towing. But the East Van RV City is saying that they won’t go, because there is nowhere for them to go.
At a press conference on Tuesday May 18th, Slocan residents demanded an end to the criminalization of vehicle-dwellers and called for the government to build social housing.
William Cook, who has been living in an RV for five years, explained, “We want to stay here. We’re not hurting anybody. The prejudice we’re being dealt with is completely unfair… We should have the right to come and go and pick our own neighbours, to create the community we feel comfortable with. We have to stand up for our rights right here, and make sure that we have the right to stay in our vehicles if that’s what we choose to do. The City has to back down… harassment and bullying is not the way to do it.”
Connolly Watson has been living in an RV for five years because renting an apartment left him barely able to make ends meet. He echoed Cook’s point about prejudice and City harassment. “We are not criminals. I have a home, it’s right over there. I just don’t have an address. It’s wrong to turn us into criminals because we like living in an RV.”
RV resident George summed up the sentiment at the Slocan encampment. “What I hear from everybody is that what they’re looking for is a place to maintain their independence without threats to their personal property, security, or safety.” At the end of the press conference the group chanted, “Hands off our homes!”
City of Vancouver responds by smearing the Slocan RV encampment
In response to the RV-City press conference, Taryn Scollard, the City of Vancouver’s director of streets, smeared the RV community, using the tired talking points of unsightly debris and innocent school children to justify the City’s unnecessary displacement of RV-dwellers. She told journalists, “We’re seeing a lot of increased concerns in the area as the number of RVs increase. Some of them are leaving debris on the streets. We’ve encountered human excrement.”
The RV City residents’ answer to Scollard’s claims is that the city can and should provide the same basic amenities that housed residents have: washroom facilities, running water, electricity, and regular garbage collection, rather than pouring resources into having bylaw officers chase vehicle-dwellers around the city.
Scollard went on to point to “increased interactions” between campers and high school students. But the only negative interactions RV City residents report is vandalism and harassment by teenagers who, for example, have set off fireworks underneath RVs for the past two Halloweens. Anti-poor harassment by these members of the public is perpetuated by the city’s criminalization of vehicle dwellers and smears by officials like Scollard, who blames RV dwellers for the vulnerability that leaves them open to attacks by housed people.
Listen Chen, a Red Braid member who helped organize the press conference, responded to Scollard’s comments. “Scollard’s characterization of the Slocan RV-city as a blight on clean streets and danger to children legitimizes anti-poor hatred. Rather than mitigate the worst harms of the housing crisis, the City is sanitizing public space of all evidence of poverty by smearing unhoused people as dirty, dangerous, and less than human.”
Scollard’s bureaucratic, anti-poor perspective obscures the bigger problem animating the City’s crackdown on the Slocan RV-city: the housing crisis. As RV-dweller Peter Carson pointed out, the City has failed to provide solutions to campers. Meanwhile, he said, “A landlord can renovict somebody and then jack up the rent to however much they like. There’s no cap. If there was a cap that would go a long way.”
In a paltry attempt to soften the City’s authoritarian approach to RV-dwellers, Scollard said the City would tow RVs for free to RV parks, which have inflated rents that Slocan RV-City residents cannot afford, or store them for thirty days while residents find alternate solutions, which RV-City residents say do not exist. Slocan resident Cece pointed out, where are people supposed to live while the City is “storing” their home? Scollard’s “solutions” simply reinforce the status quo, which is to shift the burden of the housing crisis onto those who are most impacted by it through criminalization and the enforcement of senseless laws.
“I will not move”: Slocan RV-city takes a stand
Tommy Lamontagne has been living in an RV for two years, after being evicted from supportive housing. He explained, “I don’t have the income to live in a high rise… Most of us live paycheque to paycheque. It’s not supposed to be like that. If we live in an RV or car, there’s a reason for that. We shouldn’t be punished because the City doesn’t want us and discriminates against us as criminals or drug addicts because we are living in an RV. That’s just wrong.”
Robert Petrie, a Red Braid member and former Oppenheimer tent city resident, came to stand in solidarity with the RV-dwellers. He said, “I’m here to advocate for the RVs, just to be able to stay, stand, and be respected as homes. Whether it’s tent or RVs, what we all have in common as people trying to live in this city is the government saying ‘unhoused person, you can’t use this tent or you can’t use that RV or the woods or the park or an out of the way location.’ What it seems you can do is sleep in the street or an alcove or the alley way. The City is fine with that.”
Scollard says the City will continue its plan to displace the RV-dwellers on May 26th. But the Slocan RV-city isn’t going to back down. As Tommy said, “I will not move. I will not go anywhere. If I have to get another RV because they tow mine, I’ll get another one and put it in exactly the same spot as this one.”
RV-dwellers are calling a rally at 4 pm on May 26th at Slocan and 12th Ave and inviting all those who feel a stake in ending the criminalization of poverty and houselessness to join them in defending their community. The City has said that it is planning crackdowns on other RV encampments, laying the basis for all vehicle-dwellers to band together to say, “We won’t go!”
To support the Slocan RV-city come to the Wednesday May 26th defence rally, at 4 pm. And email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call Taryn Scollard (604-873-7789) demanding that the city refrain from displacing people who live in vehicles.