Sunday, April 05, 2009

grand march for housing

Yesterday I joined in the Grand March for Housing with my friends Cathy and Myrna. We assembled at Thornton Park - one of three starting points around the city, and marched to the Vancouver Art Gallery for a rally.

Our route took us up Main Street, through part of Chinatown, then along Hastings, through one of the saddest, most neglected neighbourhoods in Vancouver (in Canada, I'd guess), then on to downtown. We saw single room occupancy hotels that a fellow walker declared "should be burned down, they're so bad." She told us that her daughter had lived in one of those for a few days before deciding it was so foul and dangerous that she returned to living outside on the street. We passed vacant lots where other buildings had been torn down. We passed old buildings being re-built in a wave of gentrification and new buildings replacing old ones, squeezing out even the foul places where a person on welfare could afford to stay. We turned and marched up, into downtown Vancouver, with its stores, hotels and bank towers, and ended up at the Art Gallery. There we heard from a number of speakers, all advocating for an end to the problem of affordable housing. With us on the march and at the rally were homeless people, people from various organizations from labour unions to social services non-for-profits, and ordinary interested citizens, like us. We wore t-shirts that said YOIBY. This stands for "Yes, in our backyard," and is meant to counter NIMBY or "not in my backyard."

The experience of the march was humbling - there's so much that needs to be done, and such a shame that progress is so slow. It was also inspiring. There were people in wheelchairs, grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads with babies in slings, old-timers and Gen-Y young people - all united to take a stand for safe, affordable housing for everyone. I hope that we can keep up the energy, push public will and awareness and pressure our governments to make this a priority. The way it is now just isn't right. That's everyone's problem.

question: do you know someone who is homeless? have you ever been?

mompoet - learning from experiences and growing in compassion

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