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4th Annual Power of Women March for Women's Housing

Why do women in the Downtown Eastside march every year for housing?

by DTES Power of Women Group

4th Annual Power of Women March for Women's Housing



October 1 2010, Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories- In response to the persistent violence of poverty and homelessness, women in the Power of Women Group of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre are organizing the “4th Annual March For Women’s Housing” to demand safe and long-term affordable housing.

According to Priscillia Mays, an organizer of the march “There is a perception that governments are now dealing with the homelessness crisis, but the recent solutions are all band-aid ones. All of us are someone’s sister, someone’s daughter, someone’s mother. We have the right to safe and affordable housing, not just shelter beds. Without safe and affordable housing, many women are forced into unsafe and violent situations, leading to the ongoing unacceptable tragedy of women being murdered.”

A report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Social Planning and Research Council of BC earlier in September 2010 found that, according to BC Housing’s own service plans and data, there an overall net increase of only 280 new social housing units over the past five years. Over 1550 of the so-called “new” supportive housing units are actually renovations and replacements of existing housing stock rather than additional low-income housing.

According to Beatrice Starr, an Indigenous elder and organizer of the march “We call on the municipal, provincial, and federal governments to commit to ongoing funding for new social housing; to place a moratorium on low-income housing conversions to condos in the DTES; to stop criminalizing the poor through police harassment and aggressive ticketing; and to put our needs for basic survival before corporate developer profits.”

In the midst of this housing shortage and affordability crisis, community groups are redoubling efforts to secure the promised affordable units at the Olympic Village (Millenium Water). While the initial development plan promised that 66% of the units would be affordable, that number has now been reduced to less than 10% and a majority of the promised units remain empty. In the lead-up to February 2011, the one-year anniversary of the Olympic Tent Village established at 58 West Hastings, a separate campaign will work to attain a moratorium on the sale of the promised units and will openly establish a Tent City at the Athletes’ Village under a general call to “Reclaim Housing.”  

Anne-Marie Monks, a 60-year old woman with disabilities, states, “Why is it so hard to treat us as human beings? The government has the ability and the capacity—but not the political will—to ensure the elimination of poverty. I challenge any politician to switch places with me. Sleep in the alley, stand in a food line, and live off $6 a day; then perhaps you will understand our pain. No more empty talk.”

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