After I flew into Nainaimo and did our first day of tech at the Port Theatre for The Sun and the Moon, I went to get some groceries to make dinner at the condo I’m staying at. I walked by the this Tent City thing, which seemed similar to what has been going on in the DTES but with a much higher concentration in one spot. I’d heard about this tent city from people in Nainaimo, they had the usual right-wing kind of attitude towards it, that these people are trouble makers and eating up our tax dollars, they do drugs and they’re the problems of our society… Well, good thing that I had the privilege to reside in the neighbourhood that has been undergoing similar processes and hardships of displacement and discrimination. From the outside, it might seem like a bunch of scary and lost people, but inside, you’ll find that these people have been socially and economically pushed out and displaced, and rather than waiting for the gov or the city to actually find solutions and support they need, they had to help themselves, so they built their own community to look out for each other, they share resources and energy to survive. They all have their own stories and things we don’t know about that’s worth finding out.
I stood outside of the gate for a while, to observe and be respectful and then was welcomed in by a guy named Colin, he said everyone’s welcome and guided me in. I can tell that Colin is going through some difficulties and appeared to have some mental conditions by his ways of movement and utterance. This may make most of people uncomfortable or scared, but fortunately I have a bit more experience and capacity to understand and handle this kind of situations. I carefully navigated myself while engaging the conversation with him, both to protect my own safety and getting a sense of the environment and the person that I’m engaging with. I was able to feel safe and establish a friendly conversation. After he found out I was visiting from Vancouver, he immediately said “Do you have a place to stay? If you don’t, you’re more than welcome to stay here!” This almost crushed me. I had the imagine of this beautiful luxurious condo that the choreographer is putting me in, compared to the condition and the few resources they have. They were willing to share.
Colin took me around the campsite and introduced me to so many people, he treated me like family. I felt bad that he woke some people up in the tents, and that he was having difficulties completing sentences sometimes. Eventually, he introduced me to his uncle Rod who appear to be one of the older person who looks after the camp, and his friend Mark, we chatted for almost an hour. Found out so many stories behind each one of them, and how the city is treating them. They even refuse to turn on water for them on the site.
They’ve hosted around 200 homeless population now, he said there are around 400 homeless population in Nainaimo and they’ve successfully gathered half of them, so they don’t just OD in the alley or die on the street. They are people here to look after each other. To gather water, food, etc. A very socialist community.
So what are we? Who are we to judge? What are we really doing in our society? How are we really building and function as a community?
I am hoping people can share this, to bring more positive attention to these people, I hope this gets to journalists, filmmakers, story-tellers, activists and eventually to politicians. I owe them a story to share to my community of people or to the world out there.
I just happened to walk by, on the way to get some grocery to the bnb. So I asked if I can bring them something, they said food would help. I brought a bag full of fruit, snacks and food back to the camp, the tent city, the people who’s been displaced, ignored for the longest time, who may be invisible in the society, but now they are here, gathered, with love, hope and new ways of survival. I hope we can all do something for the people with less privilege, power and resources. Whatever we can do to support.
I understand and acknowledge the complexity of these social issues. Yet I do notice the narrative on the media or amongst majority of people are leaning towards the right-wing perspective, that these people choice to be where they are, they don’t work hard enough to help themselves, and our tax dollars shouldn’t be wasted on them, they’re troubles and burdens of the society. These are the narratives or subtext that is dominating our society today still. This is what creates the wall between the rich and the poor, and makes the poor invisible as the ignorant solution to poverty. In my narrative I may be simplifying on more complex issues, this is an attempt to balance the dominant and toxic narrative to a more humane, socialist and personal perspective. It is easier to treat people like numbers, but they’re not numbers, they’re people. Everyone has goes through different journey and different hardships and stories.
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