April 2016: Visit to Tent City Victoria, BC
On April 20th, 2016 I walked to the Tent City in Victoria on Quadra ST. It is situated between the court house and a church in a garden. The garden is now filled with tents. I am not sure what I was expecting to find there, but felt it was necessary to see for myself what was going on there. Perhaps I felt it was a bit of pyscho-education and I hoped it would bring me some awareness. What I found was a mass of tarps covered over dome shaped tents of all different sizes. The tarps seemed to hide the actual uniqueness of the tents and it seemed to create one whole. In the center of the tent city there is a pathway made out of white carpet leading down into the core of the center. In the center there is a meeting area built of makeshift wood pieces and a burning fire. I walked right into the belly of the beast and stood there stunned. Then from behind me, a man who was sitting on a chair said, “you cannot just stand there! Talk to us.” I was still stunned and really did not have much to say. I said I was a freelance independent outreach worker and had just come from Our Place Society where I had been doing visual connection mapping for three years. I then reached into my bag and showed him the visual connection mapping portfolio with all the drawings in it. Funny enough, he said, “you need to talk to those people” and he pointed to another freelance independent outreach worker and an artist who was drawing a native wolf on red paper. Before moving on, I asked the man, “who is supervising this place?” And he responded that no one is supervising this place, but that it was self-governed. Later on I thought to myself, how can the tent city be self-governed? Even anarchy governments have leaders.
We are all the leaders we have been waiting for, we all have gifts, something to offer. Some families and members of streets have been on streets for years and their family connections are ever expanding. Others are newer to streets and need more help. Through out time people have been gathering and comeig together and working it out. This is a great example of that. System would have us all mistrusting and divided thus more vulnerable. People at Super InTent City are safer and more secure mostly because given the opportunity they’d take care of themselves and really want to.
Its happening now due to unprecedented support from housed community.
I give credit to those homeless who been doing it for years and are now leading down there to help housed understand how it is they have survived and what it is they all want. I love this language of “family and family heads” happening now.
There is for sure no ONE leader, there are many and its powerful to see how this is settling itself out in the day to day.
I am learning who is with whose family, many are newly formed and reforming daily, this is natural and powerful and inspiring.
thank you for doing this! Your blog rocks out with honesty!
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I looked at your site Committee to end homelessness and was not aware that you have been advocating since 2006. The philosophy around Super InTentCity is very different then I have seen before. When I walked there last Wednesday I was surprised that there was only two people to be seen in the tent city. One person was fixing his tent and the other was sitting on a chair close to the middle of the tent city. I understand from the one gentleman that they are self-governed – however physically the tent city is an anomaly. I have seen these tent structures when United Nations goes into war stricken countries to provide aid to the marginalized but have never come across it in Canada. When the United Nations helps the war-stricken countries by setting up temporary tent housing they make sure there is fresh drinking water, food and medical care. I did not see any of these three essentials at Super InTent City, not to mention running water and electricity. Perhaps the development of the structures on the court house lawn in Victoria is meant to empower the homeless living there but it is something so alien to any neighbourhood I have ever walked through in Canada. I have seen these encampments in Malawi, Africa and the Afghani refuges built some of these tent structures in Pakistan. Do you understand the demands of the people living there? Do the individuals living in Super Intent city want permanent housing? Is that their own single demand? If they would receive permanent housing would they not all be separated and is this not the opposite of their goals? Written by Annuska