Lisa Freeman: On May 1, 2017, several members of the Social Justice Centre participated in a press conference with Alliance Against Displacement (a grassroots organization that organizes with communities facing displacement in B.C) and residents of 'The Strip' (135A St) in Surrey. A few people who live in tents on The Strip discussed the daily challenges they face: bylaw officers taking their belongings, constantly trying to stay dry in this rainy climate, and harassment from specific police officers (who some residents refer to as 'The Terminator'). I met several residents of The Strip, and chatted with a young woman who told me that she never imagined that at 21-years old she would be homeless and searching for extra layers of cardboard to keep her tent dry and warm. It has been clear for awhile now that the living conditions (including constant police surveillance) on 135 A St need to change. In supporting the residents and in raising some of the key issues at play here, Michael Ma and I (Social Justice Centre at Kwantlen Polytechnic University) discussed how changes to the current situation of harm reduction, safe injection sites, and affordable housing could support the people living on the Strip. Not a bad way to spend May Day...despite the dismal living conditions and cold rain. --Lisa
Mike Ma: We attended the Press Conference organized by Alliance Against Displacement on 135a, Surrey today. It was pouring rain but we pressed on. It is sad to see all the resources that have gone into the public safety trailer-building, and so little going towards alleviating the misery of living in tents on the sidewalk. Surrey could be doing so much more, and yet it is not. Why perpetuate this misery?
Here is the press release from AAD:
News conference about health funding and policing poverty in Surrey: Monday May 1st, 11am at the Surrey Strip on 135A
For Immediate Release
Monday May 1, 2017
“They’re making it a crime to be poor”: News conference to expose misappropriation of overdose funding on the police occupation of the Surrey Strip
SURREY, UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORY: On Monday May 1st, anti-displacement activists will hold a news conference about the misappropriation of Provincial health money to fund a total police occupation of the two-block-long tent city.
What: News conference about policing poverty
When: Monday May 1st, 11am
Where: 135A Street, at 106th Ave
In December, the BC Health Authority announced plans to open an overdose prevention site on the Surrey Strip, and eventually a supervised injection site. Instead of nurses and health workers, an RCMP and Bylaw officer “Surrey Outreach Team” is carrying out a campaign of harassment and intimidation against homeless people. Instead of a supervised injection site or social housing, there is a new permanent police station built on City land. And this policing is worsening the effects of the homelessness crisis on the health and wellbeing of homeless people.
Come hear homeless Surrey Strip residents say, “we’re sick of them just bossing us around.” Residents will speak out against arbitrary police harassment, surveillance, and Surrey bylaw’s daily “takedown” policy that forces homeless people to disassemble their tents every morning. Researchers will speak about the misappropriation of Provincial health funds to the police occupation of the Strip. And activists will speak about the implications of this policing-focused “health outreach” model for the housing and poverty crisis overall.
The redirection of Provincial health resources into policing is taking place during the 2017 BC election, yet none of the parties have made ending poverty and homelessness a focus of their campaigns. This event is part of Alliance Against Displacement’s anti-election week of action to end homelessness that began Friday with the 10 Year Tent City in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
For information, contact: Alliance Against Displacement