NOTE: This post includes descriptions of state violence experienced by homeless people living at Topaz and Pandora. People asked us to share what happened to them, to break through the deceptive stories about how the province’s decision to hastily clear three tent cities is a good news story. While some people obtained temporary shelter in this government push, for those left behind at both tent cities, the decampment has been a nightmare. Minister of Social Development & Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson said “Our priority is your health and safety” but as these stories show, the eviction order had nothing to do with well-being: it was about punishing people for being homeless. Some people who shared their stories wanted their names mentioned and others didn’t.
VOICES FROM Topaz, thursday may 21
Yesterday we got ousted. Not so much by force, but with this give-you-20-bucks-for-your-tent thing. [HL Demolition, contracted by the provincial government to clear the camps, gave homeless people a choice: hand in a tent for $20, or have the tent destroyed and get nothing.] They gave us the warning a while ago and said you had to be out on Wednesday. So most people had already packed up and left anyway. Some people managed to sneak their tents out.
They’ve been arresting people on breaches too, and then when they come back all their stuff is gone.
HL has been offering people 20 bucks for their tents. We were told we weren’t allowed to leave with our tents because they don’t want another encampment forming somewhere else. They weren’t checking what tents belonged to who though so people were just grabbing tents, whoever’s tents, just to get $20. I mean we are all poor, we’re homeless, so of course we’re gonna take the 20 bucks. But it’s really fucked up, they were just destroying them all. They were cutting them up and throwing them in a dumpster. That really pissed me off, I thought that at least they would go to someone else who needed it. It’s such a waste. They were destroying everyone’s tents, even tents that belonged to people before. I had a few tents, I had this really nice MEC tent that I bought myself a while ago and I got $20 bucks for it then I watched them cut it up. I wasn’t here last night and when I came back my other tent with all my stuff in it was thrown in the garbage. Another guy had 3 tents and they’re all gone.
All the tents that were up in the field, that Reverend Al bought before he was kicked out, they were destroyed. HL cut them up. Those were really nice tents too, brand new.
The ones who didn’t get their tents out in time were the ones who were struggling and got left behind. So their tents got cut up. I don’t know where they have gone. Lots of people didn’t get hotel rooms. People have scattered all over now.
Yesterday the cops came in and said you had to get out or they were going to charge us with trespassing. There was a big scene. And last night, I wasn’t here, but the cops came in and demanded that everyone get out of their tents and they had their guns out. They said to [name withheld], she was refusing to get out of her tent, that they had no way of knowing she didn’t have a gun in her tent and told her she could be shot. So she got out of her tent and then they just ripped it up and destroyed it in front of her. When I came back she was shaking and I tried to calm her down. I got a hotel room but not everyone did. Like lots of people just didn’t get one, or they came too late. I think most people feel unsure about it, they’ve welcomed it though because it’s somewhere to be. I wouldn’t say fearful but unsure.
VOICES FROM pandora, thursday may 21
[Note: As of May 21 there were still 15-20 tents at Pandora and at least 30 people who were planning to stay for various reasons, such as not being offered indoor shelter, having no place to go, and not wanting to be separated from community.
On May 24 they were violently evicted with 8 homeless people arrested. Witnesses were blocked from being able to support people and threatened with arrest. The statements below were people’s answers when asked what they wanted to share about why they were still on Pandora after the eviction deadline.]
Save on Foods [arena] is like a jail cell, no outside belongings allowed.
I’m stone cold native and I can’t find a place to stay.
Colin: The government should house everybody. We beat the shit out of them on our podcast “The Homeless Solution”. CBC has undercover shoppers, maybe they need to have undercover homeless who are watching what’s happening here. We are not going away until measures are met. Going to jail for a purpose is always a good thing.
Sandy: My intention is to stay until everyone is housed. Not just the homeless but everyone who deserves justice, including First Nations. We want this to be an advocacy centre where everyone is welcome. We will offer services for each other. Since the eviction order we have been vocal about maintaining our rights. Everything here is on stolen land, they have no authority. Even this tree beside me is on stolen land! We set up a road blockade the other night, we will continue to fight.