As a witness to the recent decampment efforts on East Hastings, RainCity Housing is choosing to publicly express its extreme concern about the current and ongoing impacts of the approach taken on individuals and communities of people in the DTES area.
Members of the DTES community continue to experience extreme hardship and tragic loss of life due to the ongoing drug poisoning epidemic. This epidemic is not unique to the DTES nor is it unique to people experiencing homelessness in this or other areas of the City or province. This epidemic, though, does disproportionately impact people living in poverty, Indigenous people and members of other equity seeking communities.
We know that the ongoing encampment displacement has placed vulnerable individuals at even greater risk, further isolating people who are at high risk during the drug poisoning epidemic, a public health emergency. We know this primarily through the work of members of our Peer Services Department and we thank them for their ongoing work in the community.
We are concerned that these elevated risks will continue. Decampment approaches, in the absence of real and adequate housing alternatives, are not only not a solution, but they also create further harm for vulnerable populations. This is the case in the current decampment.
The lack of meaningful consultation and partnership with the majority of non-profits, agencies and organizations in the area is troubling, and resulted in decampment activities that lacked meaningful considerations of the safety, dignity and engagement of people themselves.
It is important to acknowledge that this issue cannot be characterized as a solely DTES issue: homelessness and disenfranchisement are a growing reality in communities across the province, and long term, collaborative, community-based approaches to addressing these issues is the only way forward.
At RainCity we are committed to continuing to build relationships based on trust, mutual respect, and cultural safety with Indigenous people, Black people, people of colour, women and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. We will continue to actively listen to the voices of those impacted and work alongside them and with other partners and all levels of government to identify potential solutions to address the root causes of homelessness.
We call on all levels of government and community organizations to prioritize evidence based and culturally safe harm reduction strategies to address both the relentless drug poisoning crisis and the affordable housing crisis. We know that there are many people throughout Vancouver and across the province who are working hard to create solutions and build bridges across differences.
Our collective efforts should be on creating more housing supply, and not on forced decampments that contribute nothing positive to our housing crisis and end up harming people and reinforcing the discrimination that our communities face on a daily basis.