Residents of the Sugar Mountain tent city in East Vancouver are vowing to stay put despite a city order that says they must leave by Friday afternoon.
In a notice dated Dec.12, the City of Vancouver says it needs the campsite next to the B.C. Sugar Refinery on Franklin Street to prepare the site for the construction of temporary modular homes, a key pillar in the city's strategy to alleviate homelessness.
The city says there are low-barrier shelter spaces available to tent city residents as an alternative to the campsite.
But residents like Ward Ferguson, who has lived in the makeshift campsite since last summer, are reluctant to move.
"It's been a rough go [but] I still like it better than being in an SRO [single room occupancy hotel] or a shelter," Ferguson said.
He says living on the campsite affords him "total freedom." At the camp, he says he doesn't have to worry about following shelter schedules and rules and more importantly, paring down his possessions.
"In the shelter they're putting us in they say I can have one bike and one duffel bag," he said.
'They're not going to leave'
J.J. Riach with the Alliance Against Displacement is helping the remaining residents — she says there are about 20 — organize a rally Friday to defend the camp.
"They're not going to leave. They're going to have to file an injunction or forcibly remove us," Riach said, adding they could head to court if necessary.
"It's within our constitutional rights to secure our livelihoods this way."
The City of Vancouver says it has already secured housing for 12 people from the camp, and shelter beds for 18 more. A spokesperson said she believed there were six residents left on the site and there was shelter space available for them.
She said the city will "continue to work with everyone on site to move them into a warm and safe shelter space as the weather gets colder."
With files from Jon Hernandez