DABC Statement on DTES Forced Displacement 

Disability Alliance BC’s mission is to support people with all disabilities to live with dignity, independence, and as equal and full participants in the community. This includes meeting people where they are at, at any stage of their life, regardless of social or economic status, race, gender, and sexuality. This includes people who are housed, unhoused, transient, or at risk of being unhoused. 

With costs of living skyrocketing in BC, and many people with disabilities unable to work and/or unable to afford stable shelter, a lot of people with disabilities end up unhoused. This results in the development of encampments —commonly known as tent cities—such as the encampments seen in the Downtown East Side in Vancouver. The reliance on these tent cities to live safely is a clear human rights issue, as every individual has the right to safe housing. It is also reflective of the failure of the BC and Canadian governments to effectively implement the right to housing for all. 

However, for unhoused individuals, living in community spaces like tent cities is often safer than living on their own. There is less risk of fire, possessions being tampered with or thrown away, and less risk of overdose through drug use as a result of neighbouring together with a structure of community care.  There can also be a higher risk of violence for people with disabilities, which makes living in community even more vital.  

In light of the recent forced displacement through the decampment of houseless people in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), DABC openly opposes the action taken by the City of Vancouver. This action further enacts the systemic violence that unhoused people and people with disabilities face and increases the human rights issue surrounding tent cities in Canada.  

While the City states they refer unhoused people to shelters, Vancouver shelters all report being over-capacity and are unable to take on the individuals who were displaced by decampment efforts. Safety is also cited as a reason for decampment; however, breaking down the communities formed in tent cities leaves unhoused people at greater risk. The impact of this action – as seen through the past decade of decampment efforts – only results in more violence against equity-deserving groups in BC. 

Foremost, DABC advocates for safe, affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities. Decampment efforts are not the solution and DABC stands with those facing discrimination and violence from the forced displacement in the DTES this April.