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Lesbian city councillor on hunger strike

Ellen Woodsworth calls on federal government to re-establish a National Housing Program

 Vancouver’s lesbian city councillor began a seven-day hunger strike this week in support of housing the city’s homeless.

Ellen Woodsworth is one of many local volunteers who have held the iconic wooden spoon in the 2010 Hunger Strike Relay. The relay began in December 2008 and will continue until June, when supporters from across the country will call on the federal government to re-establish a National Housing Program in Canada.

“Shelters aren’t homes,” says Woodsworth in a phone interview. “We need a program that puts the provincial and federal governments back at the table to build homes.”

Once the city’s provincially funded Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT) shelters shut down in April, Woodsworth says, Vancouver’s homeless will have few options.

“There’s nowhere to go once the shelters close. They’re all full right now, so people are being turned away from existing shelters.”

The Hunger Strike Relay coincides with private members’ bill C-304, introduced by East Vancouver MP Libby Davies. The bill promotes a One Percent Solution for national housing, which would require the federal government to dedicate an additional one percent of the budget to housing low income and homeless people.        

Since the mid-1990s, federal and provincial funding for housing has seen a drastic decrease. Canada is currently the only G8 country that lacks a federal housing program.

Despite her hunger strike, Woodsworth is spending time this week at various city intersections handing out Valentine’s Day cards that people can sign and send to their MP or to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in support of the bill.