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Expressions of poetic dwelling in Vancouver’s Single Room Occupancy Hotels

Authors: Audrey Kobayashi*, Queen's University, Sarah de Leeuw, University of Northern British Columbia, Jeff Masuda, Queen's University
Topics: Human Rights, Urban Geography, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: poetry, housing, human rights, activism
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Audrey Kobayashi, Sarah DeLeeuw, Jeff Masuda, Briar Craig, and the Right to Remain Collective

Shovel knocks down door – These opening five syllables of a haiku composed by a tenant in the Regent Hotel in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, now-condemned sinc 1918, exemplify in the violent dwelling Single Room Occupancy (SRO) buildings that are one step away from homelessness. To have no choice but to choose life in an SRO is a risky endeavour. Shadows breaking walls, still here – Seven syllables convey persistence against the prospect of intrusion, rape, murder, criminality, and a constant sickness and dis-ease from black mould, bedbugs, noise, and violent landlords. Our poster offers a selection of curated works - composed haiku, found poetry, photography, artwork - of SRO life collected by the Right to Remain Collective, a participatory research partnership with a grassroots, self-determined SRO tenants’ rights movement. Haiku circles, archival journeys, tenant organizing - these are just a few ways in which SRO tenants today connect with each other and their predecessors of decades past, expressing their poetic dwelling, their Right to Remain, as a potential political force of survival, continuity, and positive change. The work that we sample tells the story of our efforts to recover Vancouver’s long and fraught history of colonial oppression, precarious inhabitance, gender-based violence, racialization, and most importantly, steadfast resistance from within Vancouver’s SROs, past and present, to demonstrate that: something strong appears.

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