Urgent alert: Please copy, distribute and send an e-mail!
On the scale of forced evictions around the globe, the current situation in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, would rank as relatively minor. But for the 100 or so people living in make-shift shelters in a homeless encampment who will be forced out of their tent city on September 15, 2007, the situation is urgent.
Edmonton is the capital city of the Province of Alberta, which has a booming economy based on oil and natural gas. A “rising tide lifts all boats” is the favourite line of private market ideologues, but the robust Alberta economy has failed to deliver affordable housing for low, moderate and increasingly middle-income households. Massive cuts in social housing investment were made in the 1990s, along with cancellation of funding for new affordable homes. A thin patchwork of housing funding and programmes has emerged in recent years, but homelessness remains a national and local disaster.
The most recent homeless count in Edmonton, from the fall of 2006, reports 2,618 homeless people (844 in shelters, and 1,774 sleeping rough). Edmonton experiences extremely cold winter weather from the late fall to the late spring, with temperatures falling to minus-30 Celsius in the middle of the winter – which can be deadly.
Mass homelessness has grown throughout Canada in the past two decades, including the economically buoyant Alberta. Homeless shelters are overcrowded and tens of thousands of women, men and children are forced to sleep rough. Many thousands more are in the ranks of the “hidden homeless” – staying temporarily with family or friends in overcrowded conditions. In a number of parts of the country, visible encampments of homeless people (often called “tent cities”) have sprouted. These are typically small compared to the informal settlements in the urban areas of many other countries, but the gathering of 100 or more homeless people is usually seen as politically embarrassing and the residents are often harassed and forced to move on to less visible settlements.
Toronto’s “tent city” was shut down in the fall of 2002 by a small army of private security guards who rousted the 150 or so residents. Most were not even allocated to collect identification or medication that was in their makeshift housing. Homeless advocates launched a major advocacy effort and the municipal government responded with a plan to provide rent subsidies so that the formerly homeless people could move into vacant private rental apartments. Two years later, the programme was reviewed and declared a success for the residents and the government. Rent subsidies for private landlords are not the preferred option for many housing advocates (most want Canada to reinvest in a permanent, national social housing programme), but the subsidies have provided permanent homes to the residents, so they can be considered one part of a re-housing strategy.
At this point, there is no housing plan for Edmonton’s “tent city” residents when they are forcibly evicted on September 15. In one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries of the world, this is not only a gross violation of the housing rights of the “tent city” residents to force them out of their meagre settlement without offering adequate and affordable housing, but it is also a shame and an indictment of the politicians involved.
Canadian politicians tend to be very sensitive to international pressure, so every e-mail in the next two weeks will be extremely helpful in building the pressure towards a housing strategy for Edmonton’s “tent city” residents. You can register your opposition to the Edmonton, Canada, forced evictions and join with others in calling for a housing plan for those who are currently living in “tent city” by sending an e-mail to:
Hon. Ray Danyluk, Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Please cc. any e-mail to the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness
And, also, please cc. your e-mails to Michael Shapcott
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Michael Shapcott, Senior Fellow
The Wellesley Institute
45 Charles Street East, #101
Toronto, ON., Canada M4Y 1S2
Tel. – 416-972-1010, x231
Mobile – 416-605-8316
Fax – 416-921-7228