I am a visitor in Lkwungen WSANEC Territories.
The Canadian Alliance To End Homelessness had their second National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Vancouver November 3 to 5, 2014.
I was honored yet hesitant to attend as a Lived Experience Scholar on behalf of the CTEHV. I did not have any idea what I was going to do when I went to the 2nd National Homelessness Conference at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel except to represent best I can for our grassroots CTEHV:
Build social housing now, demand a guaranteed livable income, and decriminalise illicit drug use and “the poor”, thus ending the current police state around our homelessness family members.
I would meet others who were lived experience from across Canada, and that part was the best part.
We NEVER get to meet, see each other never mind plan together! Divide and Rule insures this.
We may have been the “token few” and yet, I was grateful and we all made the best of it.
I met managers, activists and front line workers who desperately want change. Many shared their pain, anger and frustrations from hearts seemingly on fire!
DTES’s Social Housing Alliance members organized a protest regarding cost and focus of conference, Posters Decried:
“BUILD HOMES NOW, THE MARKET IS THE PROBLEM NOT THE SOLUTION.
Regimes of management, regulation, and control have been built up around low-income and Indigenous peoples’ lives, bodies, and communities. To access basic incomes and housing we are forced to submit to medical or police monitoring and control, including under the new “Housing First” model.
Despairing reality we all must deal with, since we are dealing with the ramifications. Often unbeknownst to most workers and even most managers, it’s a factual statement we do not like to hear.”
Wikipedia on Regime:
“In politics, a regime is the form of government or the set of rules, cultural or social norms, etc. that regulate the operation of a government or institution and its interactions with society.”
|“Institutions as we describe them are publicly enacted, relatively-enduring bodies of practice, procedures and norms, ranging from formalized legal entities such as the WTO to more informal but legally-buttressed and abiding sets of practices and regimes such as the liberal capitalist market. The key phrases here are ‘publicly enacted’ and ‘relatively enduring’. The phrase ‘publicly enacted’ in this sense implies active projection, legal sanction, and often as not, some kind of opposition.“
I know Social Housing Alliance and have protested and organized with many of them over many years, we have fought, argued laughed and cried together. Now, hindsight has opened my eyes as to what more could be done and how.
The term Insiders and Outsiders came to be spoken a lot when the police were given power to divide the group as soon as protestors got here. Outsiders would find out some Insiders were actually Outsiders.
Lets go back.
I knew that a protest was coming and sent a message a day or two before to our Lived Experience Coordinator Trish Muntain for her and Tim Richter, I insured she passed it on.
Tim and I never got together before the protesters came, and really, I wished I’d thought of this sooner, but, what with my fibromyalgia, I am slow.
I was unable to organise a welcome for the marchers except for hotel security, police and me. I wore my educative Artistic Sandwich Board.
As much as I was there, I was standing alone, a lived experience homeless comrade, an ally waiting for my people.
The protesters arrived; the security forcefully stopped them at the door. One security held his position and pushed back lived experience homeless. His hand found its way to a protesters neck. That action caused anger from other protestors, especially a woman, who pounded on windows to get attention, to distract and diffuse the violence on her people.
When Tim did come down, he asked an officer at one of the locked doors “Can I get out?” The officer replied with great concern on his face “you sure you want to? The police and hotel security suggested strongly to all participants to not go out, as it “might inflate the situation”. As a note: a couple of the Hotel staff were uncomfortable with me after this protest, I worked that out by being direct with them and we were good.
Hotel security had made me show ID in order to get back in. I was a guest and conference participant.
It was our right as Kanadian citizens to go out and be with our brothers and sisters and it builds community and creates bonds that can last for lifetimes! Outsiders heard from Insiders and found out lived experience folks like me were representing inside. Managers who run programs in other provinces came out and stood at mic and shared that they were fed up with the unnecessary deaths, displacements and harm to community for not building social housing now!
Social Housing Alliance was the organizing body for the protest.
I would hear from many who were bringing up similar issues in diverse and varying ways trying desperately to deal with representation for lived experience within front line user groups. This shows we have people all over Canada who want change who often never get to meet. We are all to often separated thru the use of old colonial laws, which keep many of us out of proximity of each other.
We rarely get to meet up and talk face to face, even in our own cities or provinces!
Many insiders were critical of using the Sheraton and wondered what else can be done about this.
The national conference will be hosting in Montreal next November.
They already booked the Hilton.
We have systemic issues. I believe government supporting temporary solutions have an “in” with hotel owners and get a great deal. That will be my guess! Liberals got the Sheraton.
So, Tim Richter, our local lived experience who were organisers including myself, local academics, and activist’s were not able to organize with conference organiser’s to insure conference participants were invited to Protest.
I think we all learned a lot thru a LIVED EXPERIENCE we all shared.
I witnessed responses going on all around me for the next few hours. Even some of the lived experience from other provinces who were inside felt defensive about protestors chants regarding the elite inside, stating “I’m not rich, don’t be mad at me, I am a lived experience.”
Conference participants and some managers heard about us outside and came thru back doors to come and support and share on mic how they felt uncomfortable with the location.
The elite are a small group who were nowhere around near as I could tell. However, we were privileged to stay there and most of us would have preferred to be in hotels closer to the DTES.
Divided and ruled we are; Unity is reached only thru hard work.
Many besides me wanted to meet with Tim Richter the day after protest.
Debbie and Terry were vocal and I would learn they and other Lived Experience from the first year’s conference met with Tim the same day I did as they had some important and critical feedback from their perspectives and indeed, needed to have the time to present. They came up with a statement on social inclusion, which we will present soon.
What is amazing is that simultaneously a whole lot of folks began to want the same thing. For me that was exciting, I think of the book The 100th Monkey. It’s worth the read but the premise is its only a matter of time before all people see a thing and change in order to carry on or move forward.
Our greater communities have a lot in common and yet; we still have some unifying to do. Anarchy is good in that it allows all to come forward within their groups and represent.
In the meantime, myself and many other folks were chatting well into the wee hours after the protest; powerful sharing with such honesty and compassion, anger release followed by inevitable tears making room for laughter and vision. Hope is not a plan, we talked vision, and, I gleaned as much as I can, ready the next am to share and move forward with the feedback and move forward with the numerous great ideas that were shared as a result of this crisis of communication between us locals.
Coming from the perspective of solidarity, wanting unity, sharing critical community information with others, as we all have a place in production and its good we know what it is and come by it honestly.
Which brings me to self critisism in our own lived experience community’s as well as those who work with us within agency’s.
One of the best workshops I attended was on how to build a peer run program. It showed the strengths and weaknesses within agency’s across Canada as to how they pick/hire. One woman who ran the program across Canada stated clearly that its important to hire the one that argues with you, disagrees and is willing to be honest. That is indeed how she fond her own lived experience staff. She spoke of how we tend to go for the one that is easier to get along with. If we are to move forward, its not the way to go.
Failure was something to pay attention to and move forward right away, not throw out the baby with the bathwater!
A lot of education is needed regarding colonial system and its impact on all of us. I highly recommend attending anti oppression 101 and decolonization education, if you really want to know how to be free, then we all must look at what work we need to do on ourselves and the gift’s we bring to community, how does system oppress and why is it so critical to colonial system that we are divided?
I asked Leah Martin, Trudy Norman, Bernie Pauly and Emily Paradis to sit in on my meeting with Tim.
I gave Tim as much feedback I gleaned as possible and he was very open and receptive. Bernie Pauly shared that in 1989 at the International Conference on AIDS in Montréal, 300 AIDS activists stormed in uninvited and seized the mic at the opening plenary to (un)officially open the conference on behalf of people with AIDS, receiving a standing ovation even from many of the scientists present.
It was brilliant and we can protest together within the homeless movement across First Nations Territories and colonial Canada.
As promised I got together with Tim the next morning to insure a resolution, a conclusion regarding what was “hanging in the air” and many insiders., outsiders, lived experience, academics and managers had expressed so many ideas and emotions about what happened in terms of how we can better prepare for next years in conference in Montreal.
Again, we are learning as we go along, here is what I gleaned:
I would learn in my meeting with Tim that he was in contact with police a month before and they informed him that he did “not have to worry about this (protest) group, they are very loud yet non violent and do not damage property.”
He was also reassured by Sheraton security; they said, “Its no problem, we get a lot of protests.” Sadly, things turned out different.
It taught many that, if we leave our security to colonial systems, they would divide us. It also taught me that we can take the reins as a movement and make the protest a part of our conference in the schedule for the next National Homeless Conference, we can organize this at it has been done before.
In ending with my meeting with Tim, I asked if he’d trust me to share with the group in our wrap up time how well our meeting went and some plans? He agreed and I went to podium and represented, was given a warm applause and I move forward with Unity in mind and ask for help with networking.
Many lived experience such as myself have this vision.
We can meet for a great rally organized by grass roots in Montreal in order to educate our Canadian public and each other, meet and hang.
We can show unity and exercise our constitutional rights together in protest.
We do it together.
Please help us Lived Experience Homeless get word to fellow homeless and also decolonizing friends and family, allies etc.
I am working on making contacts with the Kahnawake Territory.
Can folks help me/us with contacts?
If you can please let your peeps know as, Lived Experience Homeless connected to this National Conference on Homelessness want to work with folks in Kahnawake Territorie and colonial Montreal so that we might protest together and to make this educative experience part of the schedule!
In ending. I recommend you read an article by Emily Paradis, whom attended the conference and was in my meeting with Tim Richter.
Also I recommend Social Housing Now Alliance web site:
In solidarity and with Unity in mind,
kym hothead hines.
Committee To End Homelessness Victoria (CTEHV)
Thaw Blog on CTEHV wordpress site
You tube: thawVictoria: https://www.youtube.com/user/thawVictoria