Hunger Strike for Homelessness – Day 1

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Today was the first day of my participation in the 2010 Homelessness Hunger Strike Relay to end homelessness in Canada. The Relay is now in week 55! At noon today I proudly accepted the relay torch (a big wooden spoon) from Emily Walker who did week 54. We did this in front of the Olympic Countdown clock on Georgia Street and I was happy to see a fair number of media show up for the event. A big thankyou to Am Johal, the hunger strike co-ordinator from Imapact on Communities Coalition who has organized the hunger strike.

With the Olympics just about a month away – we need to expose the terrible reality that a Billion dollars is being spent on security, (in addition to all the other costs for the 2010 Olympics) but housing commitments have not been kept.

From the Olympic clock, I headed down to Main and Hastings and set up shop in front of the Carnegie Center, with my flip chart and paper, pens, petitions, and cards and chair.

For the next couple hours it was a total blast. This is a VERY busy corner that I am intimately familiar with for close to 40 years. You meet the most interesting people, all milling about, from drug dealers, to grandmas, veterans, homeless people, drug users, aboriginal elders, young folks, people selling, buying, people standing in a food line up, and even an avowed antichrist or two. I love this corner – because you really learn about what’s happening for people. Luckily it wasn’t raining and people were eager to write on the flip chart the most amazing comments and support. My favourite was, ” To shun poor people is to mock the Creator”. Many people wrote why they see housing as so important and what it means to not have housing. Some folks stood for a while and said they didn’t know what to write – then came back and wrote lots.

I will keep the flip chart sheets and make sure the information recorded is used to strengthen the demand for housing.

Kim checked in on me every once in awhile, and I was always deep in conversation, sitting right at the corner on my chair. Quite a few people asked me about Bill C304, my Housing Bill in Parliament that would ensure that the federal government develops a national housing program. I was happy to report that the Bill is alive and well, and once parliament resumes (well, that’s another story), will go on to 3rd reading. The Bill has had tremendous support across the country and continues to gather more. One of the main reasons for being part of the Hunger Strike relay is draw attention to this critical need for federal participation via Bill C304. It’s been a long time coming and there is no doubt we are seeing the consequences of that fateful decision by the federal government in 1995 to withdraw from housing. It’s a disaster and homelessness and poverty have gotten worse in the past 2 decades.

So this is what I’ll be doing for the next 7 days. And I’ll be in front of Carnegie each day from noon to 3pm.

If you’re in Vancouver and have time – please drop by and show your support for housing. It’s a human right.