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Protesters occupy vacant Surrey rec centre to demand housing during pandemic
Published Wednesday, April 1, 2020 8:52PM PDT Last Updated Thursday, April 2, 2020 8:36AM PDT
VANCOUVER -- Homeless activists and their supporters occupied the recently closed North Surrey Recreation Centre for several hours Wednesday night to call attention to the danger the COVID-19 pandemic poses to people living on the streets or in insufficient housing.
Dubbing the occupation the "Hothouse Squat," the group issued a press release saying it planned to occupy the vacant building as a safe place to live during the pandemic.
The name "hothouse" was intended "to draw attention to the dangerous conditions in the shelters, SROs, and modular housing that poor people are warehoused in," organizers said.
“Homeless shelters and modular housing buildings are not spaces we can self-isolate from the virus," said organizer Eva Bardonnex in the group's release. "If one of us gets it, we’ll all get it. Shelters and mods are hothouses for the spread of COVID-19.”
Bardonnex and fellow demonstrators called their occupation a movement, asking poor and homeless people around B.C. to take over other buildings in what they called "an act of militant self-defence from COVID-19."
They called on the provincial government to use the powers granted to it by its state of emergency declaration to take over vacant hotels and hotel rooms in the province and use them to provide safe housing for the homeless during the pandemic.
A large police presence also converged on the former recreation centre Wednesday night, and protesters left around 8 p.m. after being threatened with arrest.