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If the name of B.C.'s supportive housing is to be believed, it provides subsidized housing and "support" for people with mental health or addiction issues. But the reality of its buildings paint a very different picture: surveillance, neglect, and evictions without cause.
North Star spoke to Nicole, a tenant in a supportive housing building in New Westminster, B.C.: “In the past 2 months, 6 people have been evicted from my building for trumped up reasons, and there were more before that. Supportive housing is covered under the Residential Tenancy Act, but the non-profits who run the buildings do what they want."
“We weren’t allowed any visitors for the first 12 months of COVID.” Although she is a resident, Nicole remarked: “The front door is locked, I have to get buzzed in and there are cameras everywhere. My mental health is way worse since I moved in 2 years ago.”
Nicole was told by an administrator of the program: “This is not housing, this is a program. If you violate the program you’re terminated" – they mean you’re evicted.”
North Star asked Nicole who is responsible for the state of BC Housing: “The government is. They aren’t concerned about homelessness, it’s about making money. It’s all about the economy. And the solution is to stop warehousing homeless people into marginal housing. Give us affordable housing! We don’t need your supports.”
B.C. Housing contracts non-profits to run supportive housing buildings. Nicole said the staff aren’t trained to support people in crisis. “Staff aren’t allowed to administer Naloxone without calling a supervisor. Sometimes they’re talking to a supervisor in a completely different building.”
Nicole reported that in 2021 there was a 22-year-old woman who was in distress for multiple days in her room. Tenants repeatedly asked staff to check on her, but she eventually overdosed, alone. “The non-profit is all about surveillance and control. But when people need support and help, they ignore the problems or can’t deal with them.”
“It reminds me of residential schools. They think we’re uncivilized, unclean. They say we have high needs and that we have to be supported in order to be able to maintain housing. Really it’s a jail, a warehouse of people under constant surveillance.”