More than 100 academics and researchers from across BC are calling on Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Housing Rich Coleman to abandon legal efforts to dismantle Super InTent City. The letter has been issued in response to renewed efforts by the provincial government to again apply to the BC Supreme Court for an interim injunction application against the homeless residents currently living in Super Intent City on the court house green space in downtown Victoria.
The letter points to growing unfounded hostility that has become common in public dialogue and media portrayals that serve to increase inaccurate perceptions about homeless and low-income people. The letter notes that, “Stigma and discrimination have profound negative impacts on individual and group health and well-being, especially for those with few resources to resist such portrayals. Equally concerning is that such animosity is obscuring the evidence and promoting inaccurate beliefs that public inconveniences may be outweighing the benefits of the tent city for its vulnerable residents.”
The letter serves to address a recent report issued by the Victoria Police Department that was produced in response to calls from the public. The letter clarifies that, “In the case of Super InTent City, the media and police are reporting that calls to police have increased. Calls to police are evidence of people making calls to police, not evidence of increases in crime.” Tent cities have not been found to increase crime but studies have found that misconceptions of people living in poverty commonly lead to increased public complaints when tent cities are established.
An evidence-based response to homelessness would mean the provision of safe, affordable and appropriate housing using a Housing First model, a liveable income and essential health and social services such as supervised consumption sites. To date, all of the Province’s offers to tent city residents have been temporary, transitional or emergency shelter spaces not permanent housing.
The letter calls on the Province to engage in evidence-based policy decisions that will serve the interest of the public, including unhoused individuals who are part of our communities. “Your response to Super Intent City is and will be a marker of how your government intends to respond to homelessness. We strongly urge you to respond based on the evidence rather than based on stereotypes and discrimination.”
Read the academics’ open letter to the Province here.