What is a STAND for social housing?
The idea of a STAND is based on the action of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an association of Argentine mothers whose children “disappeared” under the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. They stood in a city square every week for years and their white scarves became an international symbol for peaceful protests against profound individual and collective loss.
The first STAND in Vancouver began in October 2007. Community Advocates for Little Mountain (CALM) held a STAND every Saturday on the corner of 33rd Ave and Main Street to protest the destruction of social housing and forced dislocation of a meaningful community. The STAND bore witness to the sale of public land to a private developer and the loss of social housing in the midst of a homelessness crisis in the city.
In February 2008, Citywide Housing Coalition (CHC) expanded the STANDS within Vancouver to over a dozen locations, and over the ensuing months CHC and CALM organized STANDS across the province. At one point there were 75 STANDS throughout the province on a single day!
In spite of this inspiring work, the housing crisis in BC continues to mount. In the last 20 years the federal and provincial governments have abandoned their social housing responsibilities to municipalities and charities, which have been unable to meet the growing housing needs of working and low-income families in BC. For the first time since housing became a chord in the repertoire of Canadian social democracy, the very idea of social housing is in danger of being lost.
Working and low-income people – particularly indigenous, migrant, racialized and single-mother households, seniors, and people with disabilities – throughout the province are experiencing a housing crisis now. Tens of thousands of people in BC are living in unhealthy, dangerous and unaffordable housing. Street homelessness increased in the Downtown Eastside by nearly 100% in the last year. Over 35% of renters in Vancouver are paying more than 50% of their incomes to rent and living in cramped and unhealthy conditions.
We are running a grassroots campaign rooted in mobilizing communities on a local level throughout the province to push a social housing platform for the May 2013 provincial election. In order to achieve this goal, we want to bring back the STANDS for housing.
We are asking people from around the province to take a STAND for social housing.
All you need is a handful of people willing to gather on a busy corner in your community from noon to 1:00 pm on any Saturday beginning Nov 24th. Whether you continue this action every Saturday is up to you. For the cost of materials ($20.00), we will provide you with STAND kits – a large red and blue banner with “Social Housing Now” on it, 8 red scarves, and leaflets explaining the housing crisis and the demands for social housing.
Will you STAND with us in your community?
To order a STAND kit, contact Dave Diewert at ddiewertt @ shaw.ca.
How to start a STAND for social housing in your community
STEP 1: Find at least three other people who want to campaign for social housing.
STEP 2: Order a STAND kit from the Social Housing Coalition (firstname.lastname@example.org). A kit consists of a large red banner and 8 red scarves. The cost is $20.00 if the kit can be picked up, or $25.00 by mail.
STEP 3: A package of leaflets will be part of the STAND kit initially, but you can download a copy from the Social Housing Coalition website (not up and running yet) and make more copies as you need them.
STEP 4: Contact other organizations or groups in the community that might want to join you or encourage them to start their own STANDS.
STEP 5: Hold a STAND every Saturday, noon to 1:00 pm on a busy intersection in your community. Publicize your actions to local news media or use other means to get the word out.
STEP 6: Host other events appropriate to your community as the provincial election approaches, such as all candidates meetings focused on the need for social housing.