Emergency rally to defend Sanctuary Tent City

For Immediate Release
Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Surrey steps up displacement pressure on Sanctuary Tent City during “housing action day,” threatens Saturday morning attack

SURREY, BC (Unceded Coast Salish Territories): The City of Surrey has mobilized police and bylaw officers against the “billboards” encampment or “Sanctuary Tent City.” Just two days after a new shelter opened, Surrey bylaw, RCMP, and a dozen city workers brought in heavy equipment to remove belongings and tents that they deemed “abandoned.” Where sites were occupied, they pressured people to pack up and leave. 

At the end of the day, a bylaw officer told two residents of Sanctuary Tent City, Dan and Kim, who have lived at the site for over five years, that they have until 10:00am Saturday morning to vacate, or else the city will bulldoze their belongings and their tent. 

On Saturday morning, supporters will rally with residents of Sanctuary Tent City to defend Dan and Kim’s camp.

What: Anti-eviction defence rally
What: Saturday November 23rd, starting 9:30am
Where: Sanctuary Tent City, at the billboards on the north side of King George Blvd, west of 112th Ave, Surrey

Friday’s “cleanup” and Saturday’s threat of forced removal came without adequate warning. The city posted no notices and failed to give residents time to move their camps or find another place to stay. 

On Friday, city workers told residents of Sanctuary Tent City that they must move to the new shelter, opened nearby the camp this week. But the 42-bed shelter is already nearly full, and there are hundreds of people on the street who the shelter cannot accommodate. 

Shelters are not housing and for many people they are not safe or accessible. As Jonathon, a founding member of the Sanctuary Tent City, said, “I refuse to go to a shelter, where people are crammed in like sardines. Down here, we look out for each other and we police ourselves. I don’t feel safe in the shelters, but I feel safe down here.”

Camps like Sanctuary Tent City are life-saving spaces where homeless people build community, help one another survive, and find a political voice. The displacement of the camp will only push residents into more precarious spaces where they face greater harm. While the homelessness crisis continues and housing options remain insufficient, inadequate, and unaffordable, the City of Surrey has the responsibility to provide homeless communities with the basic resources they need to survive, rather than displace them yet again.