“We Are People” – Collective Demands for Housing: By Super InTent City

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Super InTent City (SIC) is a leader in the movement against displacement and for housing justice. SIC has exposed a local housing crisis, and shed light on problems in current shelter and supportive housing, and bylaws that unfairly target homeless people (e.g., the 7-7 camping bylaw).

Since October 2015, people have found security and safety, community, and political power at Super InTent City. When the Province tried to evict the camp in January by opening up new temporary shelters, residents refused to leave demanding “Homes Not Shelters.” Residents won the legal right to stay at the tent city because it was shown that SIC was a safer option than being displaced back to the streets, parks, and doorways of the city.

Super InTent City is now facing eviction, but we know the fight for housing justice is not over. On one night in February, 2016, there were almost 1400 people who were sleeping outside or in temporary shelters in Greater Victoria. The government bought a building to provide 147 units of permanent supportive housing, but it’s vital that this housing does not have the same problems that brought many residents to the camp in the first place.

Over the last 8 months, Super InTent City residents have been meeting to discuss their collective demands for housing and this is the result. The purpose of this report is to guide ALL housing decisions and priorities going forward.

The following are our collective demands for housing:

1. We need self-determination and control over our own homes:

  • We need to be treated as adults and as any other ‘9-5’er would in their own homes
  • The housing needs to fall under the Residential Tenancy Act and our names need to be on the agreement
  • Strong tenant councils should govern the operations of all housing facilities so we can meaningfully participate in decision-making about our homes and lives
  • There should be in-house job opportunities in all positions so that we can participate in running the buildings
  • It is our desire to own and operate our own buildings, run by and for low-income people

2. We need affordable housing and not institutional, supportive housing:

  • We need to greatly increase the stock of independent, affordable housing at welfare rates
  • Punitive, paternalistic, and institutional rules create homes that are not welcoming or safe
  • We need to be treated as capable human beings, as ‘normal’ renters, because we are!

3. We need permanent homes and not temporary shelters or transition housing:

  • We are often offered temporary and transitional housing with bureaucratic processes for getting a bed and securing shelter
  • We need to feel secure without risk of eviction

4. No policing/surveillance in housing:

  • We need to be treated as people and not criminals
  • No police involvement in housing
  • We need to be given proper notice before our rooms are searched by staff
  • Our guests are our friends and family. We need to be able to have guests over without sign-ins, checks, and searches.

5. We need processes of accountability for housing service providers:

  • We need a process for making independent complaints that will not impact our housing status
  • No daily rule changing/arbitrary rules
  • No applying rules differently to different people based on favouritism, likes and dislikes, etc.

6. We need better and more diverse housing options:

  • Like any other group of people we have diverse needs. A one-size-fits-all model of congregate housing doesn’t work for everyone. Some people would like a piece of land to shelter outside, or microhousing, or to be able to live more collectively in a shared house so street families can stay together, or other housing options. Each of us is the expert on what kind of housing will best meet our individual needs.
  • We need better options for youth, veterans, and couples

7. Elements of good housing:

  • Privacy and space
  • Proper maintenance of building
  • Pets allowed
  • Guests allowed (no sign in/checks/searches)
  • Couples can sleep together
  • Staff should treat people with respect and as equals
  • Be able to cook own food/cook in own room
  • Workshop space
  • Communal space for meetings/swap shop
  • Private bathrooms
  • Secure individual storage
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