Advocates call on City of Prince George to rethink homeless camp teardown

Protestors pitched tents at city hall Monday night in show of support for homeless community.

Advocates for homeless people in Prince George, B.C., are calling on the city to rethink plans to evict people from a homeless encampment in the city’s downtown core.

Last week, the City of Prince George announced plans to evict people living in a homeless encampment set up on an empty lot near health care and support services, including a downtown supervised consumption site. Signs posted at the site say campers must leave by June 25. 

On Monday evening, an estimated 70 people, including advocates, Indigenous leaders and homeless individuals, pitched tents on the front lawn of Prince George city hall — during a city council meeting — to show support for those being evicted later this month. 

“It’s important that we help these people, help them where they’re feeling a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership,” organizer Gerry Healy told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk Monday morning.  

Healy’s group Together We Stand put forth a proposal for a permanent homeless camp away from the downtown core. Because that would mean moving people away from services, his group has offered to bring harm reduction supplies, food and other necessities to people there. 

“Instead of being part of the problem, why can’t city hall be part of the solution?” Healy said.

Approximately 70 people including Indigenous leaders, homeless people and advocates showed up at Prince George city hall Monday evening to protest plans to evict people from homeless camps in the city. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

He said his group has had “several” meetings with the mayor, but nothing has come out of it.

CBC requested comment from mayor Lyn Hall on Monday, but he was not available. 

Notice issued for second encampment

A second notice for an area a few blocks away on 5th Avenue, near a more industrial part of the city, was issued to people living in tents on Monday morning. According to residents of the encampment, they were told they have 14 days to leave. 

This is nothing new for Marcy Luggi, who said she’s been told to leave at least two other homeless encampments in Prince George. 

An eviction notice issued to people living at 231-233 George Street in Prince George, B.C., says anyone who doesn’t leave by June 25, 2021 could be arrested by a peace officer. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

“They keep kicking us out of everywhere,” she said.  

She and her nephew, who is also living there, have no idea where they’ll end up. 

Luggi said she’s tried looking for a place to rent, but whenever she arrives to look at a suite, she’s told it’s already been rented — likely, she said, because of the colour of her skin.

An eviction notice was issued to people living at 878 and 638 Patricia Blvd. in Prince George, B.C. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

“I work, I’m a cook. I’m on medical leave right now, so I can’t really go back to work until my health gets better. And staying outside doesn’t help me. So it kind of sucks. I mean, I’m stuck living outside,” Luggi said.

“I just wish they would just understand where we’re coming from.”

Criticism from Indigenous leadership

The eviction plans have been criticized by the First Nations Leadership Council for telling people to leave without setting up support or relocation services.

In a media release sent Monday morning, the organization called on the city to work with First Nations organizations and service providers to create a plan to address homelessness. 

Together We Stand, an advocacy group in Prince George, B.C., is calling on all levels of government to create a long-term housing plan for homeless people in the city, instead of evicting them from homeless encampments. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

They also called for the city to rescind the eviction notice until those plans are put into place. 

Terry Teegee, regional chief with B.C.’s Assembly of First Nations, described the evictions as “counterproductive.”

“As they vacate this empty lot they’ll be just shuffled to another area within the city,” he said in an interview with CBC’s Christine Coulter. 

“I’m not sure where [homeless people] go, so ultimately they could just end up on the street, which is what we’re trying to avoid.”

During the protest on Monday night, Teegee said that the eviction carries on the legacy of colonialism.

“It’s really indicative of all the long 150-year history of residential school, the Sixties Scoop, the Millenial Scoop,” he said. 

“It’s just created an influx of many homeless people.”

Original Article: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/prince-george-homeless-encampment-eviction-june-2021-1.6065721

March 24, 2021

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