A call to reject anti-homeless hate and come together to end homelessness
By Stephen Milner
My friends I want to thank you for coming today. It is not easy to gather in support of the members of our community living without a home. We live in a time, in a city, and in a province where poverty is looked at as a crime against those with power and money. We live in a community where it is completely acceptable to not only ignore the suffering of our fellow citizens but to add to it with insults and threats of violence.
We live in a community where there is political cache in the demonizing and harassment of the poor. Our Acting Mayor seems to have recognized this. He vowed to “move heaven and earth” to shut down the camp before anyone gets hurt. Apparently anyone does not include the campers who had their property thrown in the trash. Apparently being homeless doesn’t hurt. Being told your home is a mat on the floor at the Salvation Army. That’s not a home. That’s a recipe to kill a soul.
The city says it’s a violation of a bylaw for the campers to occupy the land. They are correct in that there is a bylaw and the campers are there in violation of it. I say that an unjust law – even a bylaw – must be challenged. I believe that even if you support the bylaw you must still protest the actions of our city’s by law enforcement for its lack of professionalism and its disrespect for human dignity.
As a Christian I grew up hearing people say there but for the grace of god go I. I say to you today that this saying hits me hard as I continue to eke out a living in the lower mainland. I and tens of thousands of us in our communities are one or two missed paychecks away from losing our housing. For me though that saying also means that precisely because of the grace of God I am here. I find it morally reprehensible to see that our government’s most visible actions in relation to homelessness and housing security is an authoritarian enforcement of bylaws that not only fly in the face of our charter of rights, but in the face of decency and morality.
We demand that our councilors end this forced eviction until respectful housing – not floor mats – is secured for the campers. We demand that a full investigation into the behavior of the bylaw enforcement department from the management to the officers on the ground be conducted and that the statements of the campers be entered as evidence into that investigation.
Finally I pray that this community rise up and show the support for its most vulnerable members and its rejection of the hatred and threats of vigilante action so often spouted by the various groups claiming to protect our community. How we treat those most vulnerable is a direct reflection on our community. Let’s make Maple Ridge a community that cares for the vulnerable. Let’s show our community has room for compassion. Let’s find real solutions not just displacing people into the shadows. Mr. Shymkiw claims to be willing to move heaven and earth to destroy this camp and I say the camp would not have been necessary if he had moved heaven and earth to find a solution before the camp came.
It’s time for a reset on how we do things regarding hosing and shelter. It’s time to protect not to displace.
Bullying doesn’t stop even when you grow up
Tracy Scott, Anita Place leader
I started Maple Ridge’s original tent city at Cliff Avenue. I blocked the road and everybody jumped in and that’s where we started. In the last 3 years I’ve been both an advocate and an activist depending on the situation at hand, with and for the homeless population. We prefer not to be called homeless; we try to get people to phrase us as the Street Population – we live on the street and we’re a population.
Everytime something goes on in our camp I write a poem that captures how everyone is feeling in the camp. It’s very hard to get that out sometimes and most people don’t want to hear what we have to say. This poem is called “bullying doesn’t stop even when you grow up.” It’s about what happened the morning of May 11th 2017 when Bylaw came in and raided our camp even though it wasn’t ok’d by Council.. They put our food in the mud mud, they wrecked our tarps, and they tore our camp apart.
We chose to continue our fight
we chose to do it because it’s right
We can’t treat others as trash
we can’t just threow them away
it’s wrong, immoral, and unacceptable at the end of the day
The ones I speak of are city officals to you and me
showing their true colours for all to see
Personally I see Ridgilantes
Destroying our property
picking on less fortunate as well as the disabled
dragging our food out through the rain and mud
this needs to be addressed across the table
During this heinous attack
laughing with no remorse or compassion
it’s so sad to see
We are the family of humanity
residents of this town
with the same equal rights as all of you
and we won’t back down
Why would they storm in on us
with what good reason?
Destroying our food
taking our tarps and tents
and then leaving us wet and freezing
Where is their humanity? You know?
The compassion for human life?
In place of that they take pleasure in causing harm and strife
How cruel and inhumane
how do they sleep at night?
Maybe they thought that we would all run away
Wrong! Very wrong!
Now we’re all hurt and angry
and we’re going to put up a much stronger fight
We are not your homeless
we are the street population of Maple Ridge
residing at Anita Place
We are the family of humanity
and we are in your face!
Maple Ridge Bylaw officers are government vigilantes
By Stevie Ray, Anita Place resident
Good afternoon Maple Ridge residents; thank you all for being here. I would like to touch upon what basically amounts to theft and vigilante violence of the Bylaw enforcement the other day, without the approvement of Council, at Tent City.
A young man who landed a job the other day had left his wallet in his tent; it was all taken away. A senior with a motorized chair to get around, had his tent, medication, and all his possessions carted away. And yet another lost all his belongings in his tent, and watched it get driven away in a truck operated by a gang of thieves, AKA Bylaw.
The disappointment that washed over me was unlike anything I’ve felt before. Is this Canada? We are here at tent city to protest against all our politicians, for homes, and against prejudice against people on assistance. To you landlords I ask why – your rent can be sent directly to you so you always get your rent. How about single moms and dads? I thought Maple Ridge was a community that was welcoming and caring? Even the founders of this town were new once and had to rent. We need affordable housing so a man or a woman can unpack their paperwork, their belongings, know their safe, and are able to reorganize so they can get work, medical, or whatever it is they need to make life easier.
To our politicians, correct me if I’m wrong, is it only like 2 terms for you to get a pension? 95% of Canadians work their fingers to the bone and sometimes cripple themselves for 25 years to get a pension. If that’s all it is – do something! Make a mark! People will remember you. Right now the majority of us could not tell you the names of the last 7 or 8 MLAs because you all blend in because nothing is exactly what you’ve accomplished. You have a job and obligation to everyone in this world. You have the means and the ability. Low-income housing – give someone a chance.
Thank you everybody for being here. Thank you.
When Rain City closes I’ll have nowhere to go
Tana, Resident of Anita Place and Rain City shelter
It’s good that there are so many people here today. I was verbally attacked on my way here for being in a wheelchair. I don’t have to explain myself for being handicapped, I’m just handicapped. There are a lot of people who didn’t come here today because they’re afraid and they’re ashamed of being seen by their families. Why should we be ashamed? We are just people looking for homes.
I’m in the Rain City shelter right now but when it closes on May 31st I’ve got nowhere to go so I’m going down to tent city. I’ve already got my tent there because I’ve got nowhere to go. Maybe we should think about what’s happening to these people instead of trying to chase them off somewhere.
Everyone deserves a home. I want to live somewhere that I can have my kids come have dinner with me, I can’t bring them to the shelter or to a tent. Thank you everyone for coming, I hope everyone understand what’s going on here.
Anita’s legacy is to care for eachother, not tear eachother down
Loretta Sundstrom, Mother of Anita Hauck
Anita Josephine Hauck was my daughter. She passed away a year and a half ago. Why did she pass away? Because she was trying to help the homeless, because she was homeless. I myself would have been homeless five years ago. My husband and I had a house in Pitt Meadows, a beautiful house. My husband got sick and he almost died. We almost lost our house. We could have been here homeless also. But I have a wonderful mother-in-law who had a friend who let us rent a house out here. It is still touch and go for us. We still live from month to month. I am 72 years old. I still have to pay for everything I get. There was a young man here who said ‘I pay taxes here,’ well guess what – my husband has been sick for 4 days and he has worked those 4 days with a high fever. He is a mover and he has to lift heavy furniture.
Anita used to get into the dumpsters so she could get clothes. She never kept anything she got. She never sold it. She gave it away to everybody. I know because she brought the same clothes to my house so she could use my washing machine and drier to clean these clothes and give them away.
Some of you guys talk about ‘all homeless are drug addicts, they’re alcoholics, they don’t deserve help.’ Put yourself out there. I must admit there are some that don’t want help but the majority of the people out here want help. I don’t know how many of you guys have gone into Vancouver on Hastings Street lately. Every time I have gone down there I have cried.
I have been out here since 1968. I was here. It was nothing like it is now. We have a problem; our problem is that we are too busy building bridges, we’re too busy building war ships, but we don’t have enough money to build houses for the people. They say they want to build affordable homes – fine: where in the heck are they? I have not seen any. I have not.
We rent a house. It started out at $1330 a month and it goes up every year. We have to pay high hydro. Guess who is working in our house? My husband, he’s the only one. I got a retirement and I get $1,400 a month and we have to live on that. Some of you say you have to pay taxes; my husband pays more taxes than anyone – he works every day, of the week.
For the people who have the audacity to come forward and say ‘I pay taxes,’ so do I and so does he.
How many of you guys have lost a child? Was your child homeless? Mine was. But she gave. She is recognized all through Vancouver and all over the Lower Mainland. What are you Ridgeilantes recognized as? All you want to do is cause problems for poor people. Well, you know what – now you have a problem.
Thanks everybody for coming. I had to speak my mind. I’m so sick and tired of people going around complaining. My daughter made a statement to me one day. She said, “you know what mom? I’m clean. I have clean clothes on. I don’t smell. I am homeless. Why are people calling me names? Why are people spitting at me? I’ve done nothing to them.” She didn’t vandalize. She didn’t go around stealing. She didn’t do any of that. She gave away. She came to me to get money to give to somebody else who needed it. She has always been like that, and that’s what she’s recognized as.
As far as the rest of you guys go – take a flying leap. Walk in their footsteps. Until you’ve done that you can’t talk. I was homeless too. I was homeless at the age of 18 in Chicago. I was homeless for two weeks. I was in a foster home and they kicked me out at the age of 18. Try being homeless, maybe you’ll get a better understanding. Thank you everybody for coming and understanding and for recognizing my daughter.