Vancouver 'Sugar Mountain' tent city residents call on province for clean water, toilets
Government says help is on the way as residents salvage water from nearby businesses
By Matt Meuse and Tina Lovgreen, CBC News Posted: Aug 18, 2017 11:00 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 18, 2017 1:03 PM ET
Dennis DeGuerre sits on a makeshift couch in east Vancouver, sipping on a cup of tea.
It's a morning ritual many take for granted — but with no access to running water, DeGuerre's tea is made from water salvaged from a nearby business.
"Last night we went three or four blocks down the road to get it, you know, pushing a shopping cart," DeGuerre said. "[We] make two trips sometimes."
DeGuerre has been living in Vancouver's newest tent city, where residents are calling on the province to take immediate action to provide them with clean water and toilets, and ultimately with social housing.
The tent city, currently home to 48 people, popped up in industrial East Vancouver after residents were displaced from a tent city on Main Street in June.
It's become known as "Sugar Mountain" due to its location, near the B.C. Sugar Refinery.
There are two portable toilets, paid for by the Alliance Against Displacement. But with no running water on site, residents have been using the exterior faucets of nearby businesses to stock up on water during the night or early in the morning.
Many businesses have turned a blind eye, but some have started shutting off their faucets, saying they can't afford the extra cost.
Ebbi Abasi, who works at a nearby bakery, says people taking up to 200 litres of water per trip was starting to cut into the bottom line.
"[All the] water they took from here, we pay for it," Abasi said. "[We can't] keep giving water for free."
Despite the conditions, residents say they feel safer living in a tent city than in a shelter or a single room occupancy hotel
J.J. Riach, with the Alliance Against Displacement, said the toilets cost her organization about $180 over two weeks to maintain. Riach said residents understand it's not local businesses' responsibility to provide them with water, and instead called on the province for support.
"Those are two basic human rights that are being denied here," she said.
Shane Simpson, MLA for Vancouver-Hastings and the minister of social development and poverty reduction, toured the site earlier in the week.
Simpson said his ministry is aware of the conditions, and is working to find a solution.
"I think the request is not unreasonable at all, and we're looking to see what we can do about that as soon as possible," Simpson said.