House the homeless or allow the tent city to stay

Tomorrow is the injunction hearing for the Ten Year Tent City on 950 Main Street. The Our Homes Can’t Wait coalition is calling on the City and Province to let the Ten Year Tent City stay until there is decent affordable social housing for all homeless people or until another suitable site for the tent city is found.

“The City plans to put a mere 26 units of social housing on the tent city site at 950 Main, but homeless people could only afford nine of them,” said Karen Ward, a board member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU). “About 50 or 60 people are living on the site now and there are about 2,100 homeless people in the City of Vancouver who desperately need decent housing they can afford.”

“If the City insists on moving the tent city it should, at the very least, provide an alternative site for the campers,” added Lenée Son with Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP).

Our Homes Can’t Wait is calling on the new provincial government, whatever political stripe it turns out to be, to make ending homelessness a priority. “Unless government builds thousands of units of social housing at the welfare/pension rate, raises welfare rates and brings in real rent control, homelessness will only get worse, and tent cities will be the only option people have,” said Ward.

The tent city at 950 Main is sandwiched in between two gentrified hotels owned by Steven Lippman. “These hotels are part of the problem that is creating homelessness,” said Jean Swanson, CCAP organizer. When owners like Lippman buy up SRO hotels, they get rid of low-income tenants and raise rents so low-income people on welfare and disability can’t afford the rooms.”

The City has served the week old tent city with an injunction to move, even though the people living there have nowhere to go and even though the campers are providing safety and support for its members, and have even saved one life. The tent city provides what the government is not providing: shelter, food, safety, and stability. If the tent city is displaced, the homeless residents will be pushed back into streets, back alleys and parks where they are less safe and more vulnerable to violence, theft, and fatal overdoses.

This is about people’s lives and basic human dignity. Surely, this is the issue that matters.


Groups that have endorsed Our Homes Can’t Wait’s demands for 10 sites of 100% welfare/pension rate housing in the DTES, real rent control based on the unit not the tenant, preserved and improved SROs and 100% welfare/pension rate social housing at 58 W. Hastings include the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society, Gallery Gachet, Aboriginal Front Door, Carnegie Community Action Project, Gays Against Gentrification, First United Church, Union Gospel Mission, Alliance Against Displacement, Pivot, Council of Senior Citizens Organizations, and the Chinatown Concern Group. Read about the Our Homes Can’t Wait campaign here.