Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Red Tent Campaign - End Homelessness in Canada

Pivot Legal and the Citywide Housing Coalition launch Red Tent campaign

Vancouver - January 25, 2010 For Immediate Release

Red Tent, a national campaign that invites the participation of all persons and organizations wishing to end homelessness in Canada, is being launched in Vancouver.

The goal of the Red Tent campaign is to persuade the federal government to enact a funded National Housing Strategy that will end homelessness and ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for all persons living in Canada. Its strategy is to use red tents and like items as symbols on the streets and in the media during the 2010 Olympics to draw attention to Canada’s homelessness crisis, educate the public about the need for a funded national housing strategy and mobilize people across the country to pressure government to take action on homelessness.

Laura Stannard of the Citywide Housing Coalition, a partner in the Red Tent campaign, says “In the 1970s and 1980s we had excellent federal housing programs and there was very little homelessness in Vancouver. The federal government must take responsibility. Permanent programs that build more social housing each year leave a legacy of healthy, affordable communities for future generations.”

The Red Tent campaign follows a BC Court of Appeal decision in December 2009 that gives homeless people the right to erect a shelter on City property if shelter spaces are full. Pivot Legal Society has provided City Council with a legal opinion from Joe Arvay, QC, which sets out some of the implications of the new ruling for enforcement of City bylaws. The broader impact of the decision is profound; homeless people can now sleep at night on public property free of harassment by police, municipal officials and security guards.

Pivot Legal Society has asked the City of Vancouver to address these new legal implications for City by-laws. “The Adams decision means that current enforcement policies which have been used against homeless people taking shelter on public space may now be illegal,” says John Richardson, Executive Director of Pivot Legal Society. “It’s imperative that the City ensure the Charter rights and safety of homeless people are protected as we enter a period of competing demands for public space and an intense security, police and military presence.”

Red Tent is an open-source, grassroots campaign, supported by individuals and organizations who have agreed to a Basis of Unity available here. Supporters can help Red Tent succeed by sponsoring a tent, or by taking an action to end homelessness.

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For more information visit www.redtents.org.

Questions and Answers:
Is homelessness a problem in Canada?

Canada's homeless population is somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000. In Vancouver, there are about 2000 homeless people living on the streets.

Isn’t homeless really complicated to solve?

Canada is the only industrialized nation without a national housing plan. The cost of keeping people off the street is significantly cheaper than the medical and other associated costs of leaving them on the streets. Solving homelessness isn’t as complicated as curing cancer – it’s a matter of building homes and putting supports in them so people are successful

What are the implications of the Victoria (City) v. Adams BC Appeal Court decision?

The Court of Appeal decision in Victoria (City) v. Adams requires changes to how the City regulates public space. The Adams decision means that the City now has an obligation to accommodate the right of homeless people to temporary shelters on public property.

Are Pivot and the other partner organizations trying to make the City look bad during the Olympics?

No. Homelessness is a reality of our city – it is important for visitors and the media to see the real Vancouver, which is more nuanced than Olympic branding. Only with media attention, will we be able to push politicians to create a funded national housing plan.

Is it exploitation for the campaign to give tents to homeless people?

Homeless people, as all people involved, have a self-determined role in the campaign. Homeless people involved with the project are aware of the risks and goals associated with the campaign and participate knowingly. Our Basis of Unity states: “the empowerment and genuine participation of people who are homeless, working to ensure their safety and working from a foundation of respect for their experiences, perspectives and needs.”

What if people take tents and participate in civil disobedience?

Red Tent is an open-sourced campaign with a statement of unity that connects many different individuals and organizations working around housing issues. The statement of unity includes a commitment to peaceful protest and resistance and tactics that do not lead to harm to people or destruction of property. See the full Basis of Unity here.

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