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Riverside squat his home sweet home, but eviction notice is final

The Province logo The Province 2015-05-13 john colebourn
Steve Borik poses Tuesday in his tent beside the Fraser River in Vancouver. © Arlen Redekop Steve Borik poses Tuesday in his tent beside the Fraser River in Vancouver.

Steve Borik has a squat with a view.

Perched on the north bank of the mighty Fraser River next to a large empty industrial lot in south Vancouver with the SkyTrain off in the distance, Borik six months ago cleared thorn bushes and overgrown grass and used his carpenter’s skills to turn the empty waterfront space into his own bit of paradise.

“I like a bit of comfort — I like my back yard to look nice,” Borik, 56, said Tuesday as he pondered an eviction notice.

Borik claims to have no drug or alcohol issues and said he became homeless following a tough divorce and then major surgery for a ruptured bowel.

One day as he was wandering around south Vancouver he stumbled upon the waterfront lot that is adjacent to a large plot of undeveloped, fenced-off land.

Using salvaged building materials and a series of tarps, Borik created a comfortable place to live. Since it was out of the way, he also thought no one would care if he lived there.

And he said no one can complain about the squat being unsanitary or a fire hazard. He has an open fire pit, where he cooks, and a propane lantern. He has a tent and an insulated blanket and sleeping bag to stay warm at night.

“I take my garbage out every day,” he said. “I clean up here every day.”

For the first five months he has had no trouble, but now he has been given the final notice to vacate by Transit Police, who are proceeding with the eviction on behalf of the Port of Metro Vancouver and the Ministry of Forests and Natural Resources.

Under a notice to clear the property, Borik is supposed to have all his belongings off the site by Wednesday and he has been advised a contractor will come in to clear the campsite Thursday morning.

Borik was initially told to vacate the site on March 23, and the latest notice points out this is the last reminder. “On Monday March 23, 2015, you were given a one-month extension to clear the site for health reasons,” said the notice.

Borik continues to work part-time as a carpenter, and insists he does not want welfare or handouts.

He figures it will be a number of years before the industrial land beside him is developed and was hoping to stay as long as possible. “It is quiet and beautiful here,” he said. “I’m just trying to survive.”

As for options, Borik doesn’t want to live in a squalid hotel room in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. “I’m not going to a bedbug-infested hotel,” he said.

Transit Police media adviser Anne Drennan said they have made numerous attempts to help find Borik suitable accommodation. “He is not causing any problems, that is correct,” Drennan said. “The issue is he is somewhere he shouldn’t be.

“It is private property slated for other use. We are going to find him a legitimate place to stay.”

jcolebourn@theprovince.com

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