Fight for your right to housing

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Social work students march and rally for affordable housing and the end of homelessness

Lauren Golosky
News Writer

It’s hard to imagine sleeping outside in Regina on a frigid November night, but that is the harsh reality for too many people. Some University of Regina social work students are about to experience homelessness for one night in hopes of ending it.

On Nov. 21 and 22, the Social Work Students’ Society is teaming up with the Red Tent Campaign for National Housing Day. The Day of Action, which is slated to consist of a march and rally, will focus on the issues surrounding the housing crisis and homelessness. The goal is to push the federal government to provide a federal housing strategy, some sort of concrete plan that would work towards abolishing homelessness and securing affordable housing.

Students will join Occupy Regina protesters at Victoria Park on the night of
Nov. 21st. They will spend the night in the cold, catching a small glimpse of what the homeless population actually experiences. To Jordan Puscus, from the Social Work Students’ Society, that means so much more than simply just crusading for the homeless.

“It’s easy to advocate for people, but it is another thing to get a taste of what they experience, to walk in the shoes of someone who is homeless,” he said.

Although National Housing Day and Occupy Regina are two distinct movements, Puscus believes there is camaraderie between them, as they both advocate for standing up, being socially active, and making a difference.

“Occupy Regina is a really broad movement that is all encompassing of a lot of different issues,” he said. “I think what they are doing is a good thing, all over the country and all over the world.

“We wanted to work in cohesion with them, instead of doing something on our own.”

After spending what is expected to be a cold winter night in Victoria Park, the group will congregate at 9 a.m. before marching to the Legislative building, where the rally will take place. Speakers from different organization across the city will be in attendance, including University of Regina instructor Dr. Marc Spooner, who is an advocate for housing and homelessness issues. Other speakers include Angelica
Barth from the Queen City Tenants’ Association, Peter Gilmer from the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, and Shawn Fraser from Carmichael Outreach.

Puscus explained that housing is included in the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights. The Red Tent campaign advocates for the recognition to the right of housing in Canada by the federal government.

“[The Red Tent campaign] ha[s] provided us information with different ways to form action and activities on this National Housing Day,” he said. “I know there is stuff about Regina and Saskatchewan that’s easily accessible, but it’s harder to stay in touch with stuff about different cities.

“They’ve been a good support system throughout the different cities. There have been people on the phone from Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Vancouver, and it’s provided a sense of unity on an issue that’s not just in Regina, but all over the country.”

Currently, there is some affordable housing provided, but it is inconsistent among the provinces.

“Everything varies from province to province,” Piscus said. “The goal is to get the federal government to commit to creating affordable housing and protecting affordable housing across Canada so there is unity and it won’t vary from one province to another.

“The whole point is that the federal government should be held responsible for some form of housing as a right. It should be a right for the people.”

The Red Tent campaign appeals to the federal government, but Puscus believes that it is important to call on all levels of government for a collaborative strategy on affordable housing and the issue of homelessness.

“Housing is a provincial platform, and Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party have introduced some things, but there [are] a lot of things that don’t really address the housing crisis in Regina,” Puscus said. “It’s not just us trying to focus on the federal government, but in general focus on housing and homelessness in Regina and how we can fix it.”

The Saskatchewan New Democrats promised rent control in its campaign, but that promise was defeated along with the party in Monday night’s election. The Saskatchewan Party claims to find rent control “detrimental”, and jts focus on affordable housing consists of more housing units and $34 million in funding dedicated to affordable housing across Saskatchewan.

Puscus encouraged University of Regina students to come and join the group in marching, and to attend the rally, even if they aren’t social work students. The issue of the price of housing and the issue of homelessness are not irrelevant to university students.

“It’s a serious issue for students to find affordable housing or for anyone in Regina [who] can’t afford a house and is trying to find an affordable place to rent,” Puscus said, “It’s pretty ridiculous how low our vacancy rate is and how expensive it is to rent a place.”

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