Not Camping; Survival

Not Camping; Survival
Richard Hil - on location in Canada.

30 July 2016

It’s known as “tent city”, a park in downtown Victoria, Vancouver Island where about 100 homeless people are bedded down in what is provincial property. Had it not been the latter the police would have forcibly ejected the camp dwellers given that in most public parks camping is only allowed at night, if at all. Tent city is right next to the City’s courthouse and just across the road from An imposing Anglican cathedral.

With all manner of ephemera used to construct dwellings, the site has been referred to as an eyesore and something resembling a refugee camp. “It isn’t pretty but it’s tent city” says one cardboard posters pinned to the iron railings on one edge of of the park. As one resident said, “it’s not camping, it’s survival”.

With Victoria’s median house price set at around $600k and rising (mainly because the virtually “uninhabitable”  city of Vancouver is driving people out of that city to cheaper areas) and with rents on the rise and public housing in short supply, there aren’t too many options for the Homeless. Jobs are equally hard to come by, and those that do crop up are poorly paid. Also, Canada like the United States is a low wage economy.

Victoria’s tent city has given rise to a lot of discussion here. I’ve heard the usual put downs and cynicism, and ignorance and bigotry when it comes to the question of homelessness. Victoria is picture perfect, at least on the surface, and tent city reminds some of what’s going on in the US. Homelessness has always been around of course but it has gotten considerably worse over recent years and especially since the GFC. While the greedy, reckless banks were bailed out to the tune of billions of taxpayers dollars the poor and marginalized have been left to fester. Countless social programs have been cut. The homeless are of course at the sharp end of inequality, with the rich now richer than ever and the poor having to bear the brunt.  But corporate totalitarianism is terminally myopic. After all, gross inequality contains within it the seeds of this system’s own destruction.