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(en) Canada, Vancover, 26 Affidavits in Defense of the Woodwards Squat

From "Friends of the Woodwards Squat" <violetta_sera@hotmail.com>
Date Mon, 18 Nov 2002 06:57:03 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Excerpts from 26 Affidavits in Defense of the Woodwards Squat
(Links to the complete affidavits are at 

17 November 2002

"Some of our staff have referred people turned away from our shelters at 
Lookout Downtown Shelter to the Woodwards Squat. This is because there was 
no alternative. This was also done because Woodwards provides mattresses and 
food. This is better than living on the street." - Karen O'Shannacery, 
Executive Director of the Lookout Emergency Aid Society

The City of Vancouver is desperately trying to make it seem that the tents 
and mattresses at the Woodwards Squat are an obstruction to people walking 
on the sidewalks. The City has spent thousands and thousands of dollars to 
have their lawyers take statements from City-employed engineers, surveyors 
and social workers, as well as eight yuppies who feel inconvenienced by the 

All of this money to get an injunction to "permanently restrain" the 
squatters from sleeping on the sidewalks around the Woodward's building. The 
City wants an enforcement order so that VPD riot constables will be allowed 
to break up public assemblies outside Woodward's, arrest the homeless with 
brutal force if they regroup like on 22 September and once again destroy any 
possessions and encampments as they wish.

Some of the defendants, local residents, volunteers, and staff of social 
agencies and shelters have decided to swear their own affidavits to counter 
the City's lies in court on 19 & 20 November. These affidavits document:

(1) The squat as the only safe haven for the homeless in the downtown 
(2) The violent police evictions of 21 & 22 September;
(3) The City's destruction of squatters' possessions on 22 September; and
(4) False claims made in an affidavit by City social worker Judy Graves.

For updates on the status of the injunction or if you would like to know how 
to help the Squat survive visit http://www.woodsquat.net.

'Til we win!
Friends of the Woodwards Squat



TOECUTTER:  I am tired of living in terrible conditions. I lived better in 
prison than I do on disability insurance. I want a decent place and that is 
why I got involved in the Woodwards Squat. I used to work on the oil rigs in 
Alberta. I got cancer in 1989 and I was unable to work. I was unable to take 
care of myself and I went on disability insurance. I just could make ends 
meet. It is just not possible to pay rent and eat so you have to make a 
choice between eating and sleeping. The Woodwards Squat is better than the 
other shelters because you stay longer than a week, you don?t have to line 
up to get a bed or be turned away because there is no bed. You will never 
get turned away from Woodwards and if there is no bed they will find one for 
you. Also there is a sense of community and togetherness. If the Woodwards 
Squatters were forced to leave there is no where for them to go. The 
shelters are full and the government is cutting everyone off of disability 
and social assistance. There is nowhere for us to go.

DAYL:  We don't turn anyone away and we clean up after them when they go. We 
have a needle exchange there as we would rather see addicts using clean 
needles. We also have condoms, tampons, shampoo and first aid kits. You have 
to look after each other when the government doesn't. People don?t really 
want to be at the squat if we had a common building like a co-op where 
people could be inside in the warm then we would be happy. We should be able 
to be inside rather than outside. If we can live as a family outside on the 
streets think how much better we would be if we were inside.

AUTUMN:  I couldn't think of anywhere better to go than Woodwards. It was 
safe and clean, we were all well-fed, everyone had a place to sleep that was 
warm, nobody was going hungry and I was relatively safe from being 
surrounded by people using drugs. While there may be people who use who are 
there, there's a real effort to keep the place drug free and to be 
understanding about addiction. I felt safe about my own security while I was 
there. I have never felt this at home in my life.

FRANK:  At the Squat I was able to find mattresses and tarps, which keep me 
dry and relatively comfortable for sleeping, as opposed to being in the 
parks or doorways. I feel safer there because there is a security committee 
and they take turns doing walks throughout the evenings. I get along with 
the people at the Squat. Often the Squat operates like a big family and 
people look out for one another. A lot of people are becoming aware of this 
problem and that we do not have any choice but to be there. A lot of 
people--over 500--showed up at our march. I hope that mainstream society 
could see that a lot of us are in a difficult situation, and they be more 
sympathetic. The poor should have housing and I believe in the political 
cause of finding social housing.

LINDA: The owner of the hotel I was just at was very discriminatory because 
of my sexuality and ethnic background. The day I was evicted I was just 
coming down the stairs to go out and he was in his office, he called out to 
me and said that there was nothing good about me, that I was just a squaw 
that deserved to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. This made me snap, 
and we had a disagreement. His son John then evicted me. ... People at 
Woodward's treat you like you are one of the family. It makes a lot of 
difference as one is not discriminated against at all. Everyone is the same 
down there, we treat each other with respect and that goes a long way in our 
situation. We need that; you can't get it out in society so we have to form 
our own little community to get what we need. The three important things in 
life: love, honour and respect, are the only things that keep us going out 

ROSE: I am a grade 9 student attending Gladstone High School in the City of 
Vancouver and have been a resident of Vancouver all my life. The weekend 
after Thanksgiving I went down to the Woodwards Building site in Vancouver's 
downtown eastside with my mother and my friend Kerstin to help serve lunch 
to the people living at the Woodwards building. This food was prepared by 
the people living at Woodwards themselves, in a makeshift kitchen they had 
assembled. The people we served lunch to were very grateful to have a hot 
meal served to them. They were nice to me; they were not rude or obnoxious 
at all. I was not afraid of these people at all; I am more afraid and 
concerned about my safety when I am walking the streets on my way to 
Woodwards than when I am at the Woodwards site itself. When I am at 
Woodwards I feel safe because there are people there I know and trust.

MIKE:  Previous to March 2002 I was living in rental accommodation at East 
49th Avenue and Knight Street in Vancouver. The accommodation was declared 
condemned and I was forced to leave, without receiving my damage deposit or 
the rent that I had paid. From that time onwards I have been living on the 
street. When sleeping out I experienced robberies numerous times. In August 
of this year I lost 550 dollars, the day after having cashed my welfare 
cheque. In theory I could use my welfare to live in the Single Room 
Occupancy Hotels in the area. However, I have experienced too much in these 
places for me to bear staying there. I used to live at the Vogue Hotel, but 
I have seen a friend of mine being removed, dead, from there, as a result of 
overdose. In other hotels I have seen broken crack pipes and needles (which 
I assume to be infected) littering the floor, making it impossible to walk 
in the hallways without stepping on them. I am currently trying to find a 
shared house with some friends, as a first step towards getting my life 
together. In the mean time, I believe that the Woodwards camp is the only 
housing currently available to me. I currently consider the Woodwards camp 
to be my home. Through staying at the Woodwards site I have seen that 
homeless people have rights, and that this includes a right to housing and 

SKY: Living on the streets is also incredibly unsafe. You have to carry 
everything with you or risk losing it. If you are sleeping alone on the 
street you risk your life because somebody could come by and just start 
beating on you or abusing you. Women are particularly vulnerable to being 
attacked. If it was not for the Woodwards Squat I wouldn?t be sleeping in 
the street in Downtown Vancouver. I would sleep out at Trout Lake Park. 
Woodwards Squat makes it safe for me and others who are homeless. The 
Woodwards Squat is critical to me. I know if there is nowhere to sleep I can 
sleep there and get food and water no matter what time. I can always count 
on Woodwards. It provides a sense of stability. Most shelters have a time 
limit for staying there and there are all sorts of limits as to when you can 
come and go. Initially I went to Woodwards because I needed an indoor place 
to live. The shelter system is useless to people who are dysfunctional. If 
you can?t negotiate the system there is nowhere else to go. There is a real 
need for an accessible emergency shelter. Everybody needs shelter and 
Woodwards comes closer to meeting this need for a diverse population. Many 
people will not survive the winter without it.

SUNDER:  The Woodwards site provides to the neighbourhood: safety in 
numbers, food every day at regular hours, protection, sharing of all 
available necessities (food, shelter and protection), and a place where 
people feel welcome. Unless there is direct help to each of these 
individuals, and if there is an injunction and they are forced off the 
sidewalk, they will be worse off. The result will be that these people will 
be alone, will have no regular meals, no access to medical care, and no 
protection of community. The Woodwards community understands that they are 
living in a public area. I have never walked there and been obstructed from 
walking down the sidewalk. I've often walked around the whole building. I 
have always felt safe walking by Woodwards since the community began living 

SUSAN:  I am President of British Columbia Conference of the United Church 
of Canada. I have encouraged individual members, congregations and 
Vancouver-Burrard Presbytery of the United Church to become involved in 
providing food, portable toilets, bedding and a supportive presence. With 
accountability through the Conference Global and Societal Concerns 
Ministers, I have channeled $1518 in contributions for the portable toilets 
and food. My first visit to the "tent city" was on or about October 3, 2002, 
when I was driving towards First United Church. I stopped and delivered 
muffins and juice, far inadequate to the numbers of people who were there. 
People were on mattresses laid along the wall of the Woodward's building, 
and there were a few tents. I was impressed with the "office cum kitchen" 
set up on the corner of East Hastings and Abbott, and with the organization 
to see that supplies were distributed even-handedly. In no way did I feel 
impeded in walking down the sidewalk. I was welcomed and thanked.

GREGORY: Since September 14, 2002, when residents of the Woodwards Squat 
began to appear in this block, I have witnessed a noticeable improvement in 
street sanitation. There is less garbage in the street and alleyways since 
the Woodwards Squat began. I have seen many residents using their own 
garbage receptacles to collect garbage. The residents have been 
conscientious about keeping the area clean. I have not encountered any feces 
or urine in the immediate vicinity. I have never found the sidewalks to be 
impassible and I often walk with a shoulder bag and a push-pedal scooter at 
my side. I have spoken with residents of the Woodwards Squat on a daily 
basis and have joined them for breakfast on two or three occasions in 
October and early November. I have suffered no threats or indignities by the 
residents and have found them cordial and articulate.


KEN:  I was in the building when the police broke into the room. I was 
sitting in a circle with over 50 people, our arms were inter-locked. The 
police seemed shocked that we were sitting in a circle and chanting. They 
proceeded to take us one by one, using force to grab us. They grabbed me by 
sticking two fingers under my throat and lifted me up forcibly. They kept 
saying "let go." Ivan, one of the squatters, was really roughed up by the 
police. They then used plastic bindings to tie my hands and led me out. They 
led us through a tunnel, to the parkade where the police paddy wagons were 
parked. They put me inside the paddy wagon, along with everyone else who was 
taken outside. They then took me to the Supreme Court. Once we arrived, they 
took us to a holding cell. No food or water was given to me after I was 
taken into the holding cell. They did not let me make a phone call.

KASPAR:  I was there every day until the police showed up, occasionally 
going outside. I left two hours before the police broke into the squat to go 
to my girlfriend's house. They broke my skateboard in half while I was gone, 
the contents of my two sleeping bags were gone, and my leather jacket was 
gone. I returned two hours after the police had left Woodwards. I went to 
the courthouse and looked for my friends, who were all minors. I did not 
find any of them, they were all released to their parents. I asked the 
police later if they had my items and they said no. I do not know where my 
personal items are at present.

WAYNE:  I stayed there every day until the police broke into the building. 
We were sitting down in a circle with our arms locked. The police surrounded 
us, with shields and clubs drawn. They grabbed a few other people, the "head 
ones" among us. They grabbed one person by the ears and nose and dragged her 
off the ground. They kept telling us to get up repeating "let?s go." I got 
up to leave. They put me in handcuffs, asked me my name. I told them my name 
and answered other personal questions like date of birth. They put me in a 
paddy wagon and took us to the Supreme Court. I was there from 6:30am to 
4pm. During this time they gave me no food, no water. They took away my 
medication, put it in a bag, and did not give it back. They refused to give 
it back to me saying they needed it as evidence. I also did not get back my 
bag and clothes in it. After I was released I returned to Woodwards and 
camped outside the building. I returned there because it is the only place I 
know where I can be treated as a human being and feel safer. I am currently 
living there as of today.


ADAM:  I watched as the police and garbage collectors brutally arrested and 
threw away the belongings of many homeless squatters who were camped outside 
the Woodwards Building. I was standing across the street, on Hastings 
Street, when this happened. The police officers made a sweep of Cordova, 
around to Hastings, and put those people who refused to leave into paddy 
wagons. Their treatment of the squatters was callous and brutal, and I never 
saw anyone have their rights read to them.

AUSTIN:  Two police officers came up to Mother Hastings on the corner where 
she was serving soup for the squatters. They told her she was breaking a 
side-walk by-law. They grabbed her by the right arm and pulled her forcibly 
across the street. They took her away in a police car. Some of the police 
were very rude. The ones that went down Abbott street to clear people out 
were cursing, screaming and yelling.

BETTY:  The next night, Sunday, the police came back. I was in the volunteer 
tent on the corner. The cops came swarming in. They blocked off part of 
Hastings Street. They got up to the sidewalk where I was sitting. A cop came 
up to me. He said "they sent us over here." I said "who sent you over here?" 
He said "They did." I saw how brutal they were to the people they were 
arresting, so I just kept walking. They said if we stopped or looked back, 
they?d put us in jail. We weren't given a chance to grab anything. They soon 
brought garbage trucks to throw everyone's possessions away.

BRODY:  I went to the Metropole to use the washroom, and when I came out the 
police had swarmed the place. There were city dump-trucks there too. Two 
uniformed policemen were outside the door of the Metropole. They refused to 
let me go get my belongings. My tent, my camping mattress, sleeping bag, 
comforter, back-pack, clothes (jeans, socks, t-shirts), protest horn, and 
alarm clock were all taken. The police had not given us any time or warning. 
If they had, I would have moved my belongings somewhere else.


SHANE:  On October 21 and 22, 2002, in my capacity as an advocate I 
attempted to work with Judy Graves, Coordinator of the City of Vancouver 
Tenant Assistance Program, to find shelter for a sick homeless man suffering 
from A.I.D.S. During our meeting Judy Graves presented a hotel list and we 
went through it. As the man required to be housed near St. Paul's Hospital 
for ongoing care including access to medications, we decided on Dunsmuir 
House. Judy Graves phoned Dunsmuir House to ask for a vacancy and she told 
the man and I that there were four rooms available. I walked with the man 
from Carral and Hastings Streets to Dunsmuir House. After arriving, we 
discovered that Dunsmuir House would not admit the man because he had no 
identification. The staff of Dunsmuir House also explained that the process 
for admission took 3-4 days. I returned with the man to the Woodwards Squat 
and then called the hotel that the man actually wished to stay at, the Vogue 
Hotel on Granville Street, and arranged housing for him there. I then drove 
the man to the Vogue Hotel to complete his intent to rent form. He was then 
able to move in the next day. Contrary to the claim made by Judy Graves in 
paragraph of 11 of her affidavit, she did not assist this ill and medically 
vulnerable man to obtain shelter. ... I do not believe that the type of 
housing that Judy Graves has been offering to residents at the Woodwards 
Squat is either dignified or affordable. A Single Room Occupancy room is 
unsafe, unsanitary, and isolating for individuals. These room start at $325 
per month. Most people who live in them are on fixed incomes. After paying 
rent most individuals on welfare have $185 to live off of. This is not a 
dignified way for any persons to live. It is safer and cleaner to live on 
the Sidewalks at the Woodwards Squat.

ANDREA:  I dispute some information in the affidavit of Ms. Judy Graves. In 
paragraph 7 of Ms. Graves' affidavit she claims to have found a subsidized 
social housing for a couple expecting a child. This couple is Chrystal 
Derocher and Travis Livingstone. About three and a half weeks ago, I noticed 
Chrystal shivering in a tent at the squat. I could see that she was pregnant 
and sick. I spoke with her and she confirmed she was pregnant. She was 
coughing while we were talking. She told me that she and Travis had nowhere 
to go. She told me that Ms. Graves was trying to get them a temporary room 
and then an apartment. Chrystal told me that she didn't know how long Ms. 
Graves could help them for. I told her I would talk to the church to find 
out if they could do something for her more quickly. A few days later I went 
to talk to Brian Burke, the Minister at First United Church and the head of 
the Social Housing Committee. I told him that there was a couple expecting a 
child living at the squat and that the expectant woman was sick. He told me 
to get them to fill out an application form for tenancy as soon as possible. 
I went back and spoke with Chrystal and told her that she and Travis needed 
to fill out an application form at the Church. She agreed to go to the 
Church with me. We made arrangements to meet the next morning. At that 
point, she was sleeping in a hotel room that Ms. Graves had found for her 
and Travis. She told me she did not know how long she and Travis would be 
able to stay at the hotel. She told me it was a day-to-day arrangement and 
she wasn't sure how long Ms. Graves would pay for the room. The next morning 
I met Chrystal at the squat and Travis met up with us as were walking to the 
Church. We went to the social group at the gym and had lunch. Chrystal 
filled out the application form while we had lunch. We were there until 
about 2:00pm. Brian met with us then. We explained that Chrystal was 
pregnant and sick and Travis was also sick. Brian told me that he was 
concerned and did an emergency tenancy immediately. It was due to my help, 
and that of Brian Burke and the First United Church that Chrystal and Travis 
got a subsidized housing unit.

BRIAN: I am the Minister at First United Church Mission. I am also a 
Director of the First United Church Social Housing Society.  I have made 
numerous visits over the past two months to the Woodward's site at Abbott 
and Hastings Street, alone, with other clergy, and with City of Vancouver 
officials. As a director of the Society, I have worked directly with City of 
Vancouver staff to try to find accommodation in the apartment complexes 
operated by the Society for some of the squatters at the Woodward?s site. 
Given the already heavy demand for social housing--our waiting list for 
bachelor units alone is over two years long--our best efforts thus far to 
find housing for the squatters have resulted in one placement of a young 
couple, in ill health, with the woman seven-and-a-half months pregnant. I 
realize that City of Vancouver staff are working against heavy odds to try 
to find suitable accommodation for what must be seen as a difficult-to-house 
population among the squatters, and, perhaps, over a sufficiently long 
period of time, on an individual basis, such accommodation might be found. I 
have seen first-hand that conditions at the Woodward's site are difficult 
for those living there. But from my own observations of the site and my 
knowledge of the lack of alternative housing available, it would be a 
catastrophe of the first order if all of them at once were to be displaced 
by an injunction. Where patient and persistent and long-term efforts to 
secure housing that would respect their needs, idiosyncrasies, addictions, 
and physical and mental health issues might admit of a modicum of success, 
any precipitous action to shut down the Woodward's "occupation" would only 
exacerbate an already miserable state of affairs for the people whose plight 
must be the foremost concern of us all.


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