LETTERS: City of Surrey must stop criminalizing poverty

Editor:

Re: RV sleeping ban is Dickensian, Nov. 13

Your editorial is entirely correct in saying that the Surrey’s RV ban is Dickensian. Coun. Brenda Locke is also right in saying the move is “mean-spirited.” Others might go further and use terms like “poor-bashing” or “social-cleansing.”

Unfortunately, these sorts of policies are byproducts of the city’s ongoing approach to dealing with social issues like homelessness and precarious housing and poverty as though they are criminal justice issues. The RV ban is another example of social problem being viewed through a lens of criminalization.

We have seen this previously in the case of homeless people living on the strip at 135A Street.

We have seen it, too, in policing and bylaw enforcement practices prior to the closure and evictions of several trailer parks along King George Highway, some of the few relatively affordable housing options that had been left in Surrey.

In that case poor residents were demonized for survival strategies like sex work.

Homelessness and poverty are not crimes and the city needs to stop turning to criminalization and enforcement to address the issues. It does appear as a cynical move to obscure the lack of real social supports for poor and homeless people being developed by the city, as the editorial rightly states.

Especially in cases where people are acting to shelter themselves in the absence of other accessible alternatives.

This is telling in a context in which yet another RV Park owner has threatened residents with eviction using the excuse of “city zoning” as recently reported.

Dr. Jeff Shantz, Department of Criminology

KPU, Surrey

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