By: Bruce Livingstone
Fluorescent orange and gunflint blue are the fashion forward statement this season in Meegan aka Beacon Hill Park. Like mycelium fruiting, tents suddenly colonized the Camas fields and Garry Oak bluffs when the first wave of the third concurrent health pandemic hit and the city discovered homelessness, which of course was living underground all along, waiting for optimal conditions to explode into consciousness with ferocious blooming. Stratified through flash freezing, seasoned by a winter of discontent, campers seek fallows in hyper-financialized pastures come real estate, finding post-Columbian barrens. The Save-On Foods shelter is not housing, it’s less of a home than a tent, it’s a bubble of a hundred or more indoors — prime conditions to spread COVID. Never mind: the neighbours want their rose gardens and bowling greens back yesterday, so bylaws are written regardless of pandemic timelines, legal eviction notices posted.
A thin blue line closed Dallas the morning B’s body was discovered, and with investigative nondisclosure we volunteers on Cook were queried but uninformed. When M died in a van fire the next morning paranoia ran rampant with fear that we were witnessing a vigilante solution to homelessness. Peeling tires a meter away from the coffee on our cookstove, hurling “F___ you” hate grenades, spitting vitriol at us from local airwaves; were they now murdering us?
While Island Health outreach teams sporting dayglo orange backpacks fan out through Meegan to distribute vaccine, the most vulnerable are plagued with irrational doubt. Science has little reach in the wifi-free wilderness. Rumours abound: the vaccine is experimental or causes autism, paralysis, green skin, contains a 5G microchip. Many refuse; mistrustful after repeated relocations after red-zone re-mapping, surveillance that has tracked their every movement, seizing tents and belongings if one (like P) is away at Rehab or (like S) offers his tent to another after moving into a motel. Harvested by officers in the field, homeless numbers flow upstream from city to province, cross-referenced for outstanding federal warrants. Eligibility lists are drawn up and finalized, moving dates set. If not “home” during enumeration you’re disqualified and must find another jurisdiction to be homeless in.
Bruce Livingstone has been volunteering in a support capacity to the campers at Meegan.