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(en) Canada, Collectif Emma Goldman - Interview with an anarchist comrade from Gatineau on the situation of homelessness and housing (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 1 Aug 2020 07:51:41 +0300


Faced with the problem of a lack of affordable housing and the increase in homelessness, the city of Gatineau can find nothing better to do than evict several times a month the makeshift camps for people experiencing homelessness. We contacted Boris, an anarchist comrade on the ground in Gatineau to allow him to share this absurd situation, as well as the ongoing struggles. ---- BCEG: Hey hi! On July 3, the League of Rights and Freedoms announced the launch of an "emergency observation mission" in Gatineau in connection with the housing situation in the city and the dismantling of homeless camps. Can you tell us about the housing and homelessness situation in Gatineau? Are forms of gentrification observed in the more popular districts of the city?

Boris: To answer frankly, if I want to give you a complete answer, it will be long. We have been observing densification in downtown Gatineau for years. We must agree, when the merger of the cities happened about 18 years ago, it showed that the urban sprawl over 57 km from one end to the other gives the municipality a challenge. Especially considering that the main economic pole of the region are public service jobs in Ottawa and downtown Gatineau. Densification is therefore not necessarily harmful in the environmental sense. That said, we can understand that it generates a phenomenon of gentrification. The plans for the "revitalization" of the city go through the "beautification" of neighborhoods, the city also grants large grants for the improvement of the facade of houses, the construction of condo towers in working-class neighborhoods where the vacancy rate is higher than the number of affordable housing... All of this has impacts on neighborhoods: increase in rent prices, gradual change in the population, etc. The gentrification process is faster than the construction of affordable housing and the eviction of crooked landlords who, among other things, do not take care of their rental housing. The last few years have also been hard in the Outaouais with repeated floods, tornadoes and the ongoing housing crisis ... Several owners have taken the opportunity to rebuild more luxurious, smaller and more expensive, which has resulted in many families homeless. We have heard of rent increases of up to 25% of the price of former occupants, which is completely absurd. When it comes to roaming, the past year has been rough. The only shelter in the region for homeless people was the victim of a fire on December 31. The people had to be relocated to a poorly adapted community center for a few months, moved again further from the city center to another not so more adapted community center and in a neighborhood whose social acceptability was rather mixed. The pandemic has arrived, the lodge has been able to return to its premises, but with fewer rooms (maximum 40 instead of 60), the city has unlocked the arena of the city's major junior hockey team until the end. of August for a number of around 60 people. At the end of August, they will be relocated again to allow the Hull Olympiques team to regain their ice (although there would have been at least one alternative), this faith of the other next to the river in another popular district of Gatineau where many citizens fear the arrival of their future neighbors. What must be understood is that the people who adopt the camp all have their reasons and have their constraints to live in emergency accommodation: some people feel safer with their tent, some people feel better protected against covid, others have limited access to accommodation for any offense, others feel bad about continuously living in a group, there are bickering, mental health issues, consumer issues, issues related to pets, some will simply prefer to regain their privacy and autonomy at least for the summer period, etc. At its peak, we had about 20-30 campers in the makeshift makeshift camp, and more if you count those who had already dispersed. The pandemic has also enabled us to count no less than 150 people and families in the street, and this is only the "visible" part of homelessness, because there are also all the others who do not seek resources. in organisms. they who had already dispersed. The pandemic has also enabled us to count no less than 150 people and families in the street, and this is only the "visible" part of homelessness, because there are also all the others who do not seek resources. in organisms. they who had already dispersed. The pandemic has also enabled us to count no less than 150 people and families in the street, and this is only the "visible" part of homelessness, because there are also all the others who do not seek resources. in organisms.

BCEG: In this situation, and with the lack of solutions, we learn that camps for people experiencing homelessness have developed. Can you tell us about these occupied places and their repeated dismantling by the police?

Boris: The place is almost perfect. A few meters and a few blocks from primary roaming services. Soup kitchen, psychosocial support, support, interveners, of the new overdose prevention site, distribution of sterile consumption material, accessible to street workers... not to mention that it is located in a wooded area bordered by a stream. Obviously, there are challenges. Who says improvised camp also says less code of life, therefore more prompt to drifts. The chronic underfunding of organizations also creates challenges to adequate support in a context of dismantling AND pandemic: The dispersion of people generates a loss of contact, at least temporarily, with the interveners and a distance from primary resources in roaming. The isolation it creates undermines the safety, health and lives of consumers in times of fentanyl and other poorly cut drugs (cases of death and overdose are on the rise lately in the region) and , also, because they are far away, they have less access to sterile consumption equipment and to a safe way to dispose of it after use. All this without counting the trauma, the insecurity, the stigmatization of their socioeconomic situation, the fear, the violation of rights and so on. But community workers are passionate and are 300% invested. They ... they do hard, quality work. This is unfortunately not without underlining that this also involves certain risks in the long term as regards the stability of workers and services. Nevertheless, I think I can say that around the camp, things are going pretty well. In the past, there was an experience that marked the memory of citizens, organizations and "elected officials" with a hot iron. 2015: a concerted agreement with the city allowed the camps to be tolerated. Unfortunately, due to the lack of financial, human and organizational resources of community organizations, things went wrong and since then, the city's leitmotif has been dismantling every 2 weeks or so. Although some police officers are more slobbery than others, some cops find that it doesn't make sense and are sickened by it. The order comes from the city with upstream from the CISSSO. Well, I'll just stop at that, because despite everything, several patrollers continue to do profiling, intimidation, harassment, brutality, etc.

BCEG: From a systemic vision, how do you perceive the action of the city and the authorities in the face of the housing problem?

Boris: If we consider that homelessness is a reality which is based, among other things, on accessibility to affordable housing, a conjuncture of unfavorable socio-economic and personal factors, the equation to bring these people back to a decent standard of living must necessarily involve a constructive approach from all stakeholders and have a coherent plan in the process. The city seems to be working in isolation projects. It did well on minutes and in local media headlines, but in reality everything seems to be managed without a concrete global vision. The city is participating in the problem by always showing itself to be favorable to the projects of large real estate developers by offering them favorable tax measures and by always showing itself open to making exemptions from the planning rules,

In casting a wider net there is also the individualization and stigmatization of people's socio-economic reality. We can see it at all levels in the excessively strict eligibility criteria for the various aid programs. But in a system, when the requests for help are so numerous that the government chooses to tighten the admission conditions, it is no longer an organizational problem (it never has been for that matter), it is is that there is an ideological problem. We must stop dressing wounds without trying to understand the reasons for the bleeding. The whole system needs to be reviewed because, fundamentally, the causes of poverty and homelessness are primarily systemic in nature that flow directly from the capitalist system. Waiting,

There is also a program that is supposed to compensate for the lack of affordable housing by partially financing the price of private rental housing, cooperatives and / or low-income housing for people with low income: The PSL (rental supplement program )... But what a great surprise: among the conditions for granting the supplement, there is the criterion of the price of the rent... which are always too expensive due to the housing crisis which is exacerbated by many factors, the pandemic, etc. which makes the program almost obsolete in Gatineau. Listen, from what I understand, the Société d'Habitation du Québec assigns a certain number of PSL to the Offices d'Habitations and the latter refuse to say how many they have and try as much as possible to keep them to themselves. because the more they give, the more they demonstrate the failure of their mission.

Otherwise, they have just announced the construction of a new hlm of 135 housing units which should be under construction soon. It should help reduce the number of people on the waiting list, but the list remains long. Just to give you an idea, from the last flood in 2017 I believe, there were still people in hotels as an emergency measure at the beginning of 2020 ...

There is also a transitional housing project coming up, that is to say housing that will accommodate people who will be accompanied by interveners the time to stabilize and acquire the necessary personal resources. to be well and independent... The project has been on the table for years, so we are delighted... but it is still only at the planning stage. Construction has not yet started. We will undoubtedly have another optimistic minimum of 2 years before it succeeds. And this project will only be for a fraction of the people who are ready to begin steps in this direction. Implicitly, local authorities must accept in their principles of combating homelessness that there will undoubtedly always be people who will be in the streets, by choice or not.

BCEG: What were the mobilizations of the community movement, the community and popular groups in solidarity with people experiencing homelessness and against dismantling?

Boris: For years street workers, workers, housing and homelessness organizations have been on the front lines. Some are exhausted, others are suffering from compassion fatigue, some have passed the torch to the next generation and many are still there, but the fervor of the community in Gatineau is well established. The militant fiber is particularly strong this year. Barriers seem to be slowly falling, collaboration becomes easier between partners, which leads to more effective, more numerous and more radical concerted actions. From the start this year, through our actions and favorable media coverage and the support of citizens' committees, public opinion tends to offer us its support. Although ephemeral, it is not negligible in the fight. Since the first dismantling, organizations for the defense and services of people experiencing homelessness have been on the ground to ensure that things go smoothly. We managed to postpone the second dismantling with an action that we called the "Hedge of dishonor". In the early morning, we planted signs at strategic places in the city. We arrived a little before the scheduled dismantling time with a good 50 or so double-sided signs that we displayed at the entrance to the camp, erected barricades with the carcasses of bicycles and started discussions with the police chief on places. The SPVG was ordered to leave, informed us that an emergency telephone meeting was going to take place with certain organizations and required the presence of the president. e of their respective CA so as to silence us. It didn't work haha. On the day of this action, people living in the camp got involved in taking part in the actions, speaking out publicly, giving interviews to the media and raising the awareness of their camping partners. We are at 6 dismantles this summer. We issued press releases, 2 demonstrations, the last of which was a symbolic camp at the intersection of 2 main arteries and an occupation of the office of the Régie du logement.... We haven't finished. We have not finished because we are rebelling against the discourse of the city which prioritizes the rights of citizens... and those of homeless people. They are angry that the city refuses to review their strategic plans. We are protesting that human rights in homelessness are repeatedly violated and against the violence that this imposes on them. We are angry that the city is trying to blackmail us. We are angry to see the city develop without ever giving crumbs to the most vulnerable. We rebel because they create a climate of terror for campers while the world is dying of overdoses and the housing crisis in the streets of Gatineau.... We rebel simply because no one deserves any treatment. 'such cruelty.

BCEG: In your opinion, what would be the viable solutions to tackle the housing issues in Gatineau in the short and medium term?

Boris: Viable solutions are difficult to determine without consultation with the people who live in the camp and the various stakeholders around and we are not there yet. On the other hand, as long as the city and the CISSSO remain camped in their positions, the situation will not change. We will have to work everyone together to find solutions. Some say that the camps are not sustainable solutions, but I do not share their opinion. Certainly, we need transitional housing and affordable housing, we also need strict measures from the city with regard to private investors in real estate, a total absence of social profiling, intimidation and police abuse, increased monitoring of irresponsible landlords, but above all, grieve with the idea of a project to "fight homelessness". I hate the word. It is as if we wanted to deny the existence of the various personal and systemic factors that lead to homelessness. In short, "housing" at all costs is not realistic. Roaming and camps will always exist, as well as optimizing the conditions of well-being, whatever they are, wherever they are. Homelessness has as many forms as there are people who experience it, so there are as many approaches as there are means to achieve it and that implies, a priori, accepting the person where they are in their own right. life and accompany her towards the best she can achieve for herself without any set goals and time. Otherwise, I call it forced reintegration, it's immoral and inhuman. But to come back to your question, I want to add that real estate investors are too caught with a grain of salt. In the framework of reference for the fight against homelessness that the city of Gatineau adopted this summer, there is too much simplicity of mind. For example: the city is based on the good faith of investors to build affordable housing... It's nonsense: The rich must be taxed, not ask them for charity. For example, the city should require a percentage of investment for all new construction that would be invested in the construction of affordable housing. Basta. For example: the city is based on the good faith of investors to build affordable housing... It's nonsense: The rich must be taxed, not ask them for charity. For example, the city should require a percentage of investment for all new construction that would be invested in the construction of affordable housing. Basta. For example: the city is based on the good faith of investors to build affordable housing... It's nonsense: The rich must be taxed, not ask them for charity. For example, the city should require a percentage of investment for all new construction that would be invested in the construction of affordable housing. Basta.

Otherwise, supervised camps, hotels, keep the arena until the construction of affordable housing in sufficient numbers, transitional housing. I think that pretty much encompasses my idea.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to denounce that we are in unceded Algonquin territory and that through several revitalization and construction projects, the city has violated ancestral lands rich in artefacts and history on several occasions despite the fact that 'they encountered resistance in the street. I am thinking, among others, of Jacque Cartier Street and the "ZIBI" condo tower project which, quite 2, run along the Gatineau and Outaouais rivers.

Thank you for allowing time and space for our local struggles. Solidarity!

BCEG: A big thank you for answering our questions! What is happening in Gatineau has something to think about in Saguenay, too, with the gentrification of working-class neighborhoods and the hunt for the poor by the municipal police. We will carefully follow the popular responses developed in Gatineau. Solidarity!

by Collectif Emma Goldman

http://ucl-saguenay.blogspot.com/2020/07/entretien-avec-un-camarade-anarchiste.html
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