© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Advocates against homelessness participate in March Against Homelessness on Thursday -- the latest in a series of events taking place this week for Food Security and Homelessness Action Week.
Disabled and unable to work, Vincent Desbiens said that physically, it was probably a mistake for him to participate in March Against Homelessness on Thursday.
“But I’ll walk today,” he said, adjusting a sign on his back that read, “We don’t need coins, we need change.”
Although some of the people who marched on Thursday identified as homeless, Desbiens has a home -- albeit an apartment he’s barely able to afford with his disabilities cheque.
Paying $680 per month on rent, only about $100 per month is leftover for groceries.
If any other expenses come up, he’s out of luck.
“The rest of the time I go to the Food Bank or Our House -- wherever I can go get extra things for free,” he said.
Although he’s on the waiting list for affordable housing through the Prince Albert Community Housing Society, he said that it might take years before his name comes up.
Earlier this week, society manager Linda Boyer reported a waiting list of more than 200 people for affordable housing.
In a similar situation to Desbiens due to her own disabilities, Barbara Kelbaugh said that another difficulty has been with what she perceives to be shifty landlords.
“They don’t really care because we’re not paying out of our pocket -- welfare’s paying, basically,” she said. “They’ll kick you out the first of every month.”
“They stereotype us, they mentally abuse us,” she began.
“Verbally, mentally,” Desbiens added.
Although Desbiens and Kelbaugh have had their difficulty with finding appropriate and affordable housing, others have had a more difficult go of things.
As Thursday’s group got ready to begin a march to city hall, one man yelled out, “I’m not homeless. I have the riverbank!”
Anyone can become homeless, given a certain level of misfortune, Wonska Cultural School educator Stuart Amyotte told the crowd prior to offering an opening prayer.
“We can’t stay silent,” he said. “Being silent doesn’t do anything for us. What it does is it just creates more problems, so we have to go out there and tell people -- there are people sleeping along the river, there are people sleeping in stairwells, there are people who are walking around all night … sharing beds, sharing couches -- things like that.”
If you make that choice -- if you want change -- things will work out with you ... Life is beautiful when you’re not drinking or drugging. Rose Bird
After circling around downtown Prince Albert, including a stop at city hall where Coun. Don Cody brought greetings and support on behalf of the city, the group of anti-homelessness stewards made their way to their starting point -- the Indian Metis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert, where they settled into a social atmosphere.
At the centre, Our House shelter enhanced support and program co-ordinator Rose Bird capped things off by reminding participants that things can get better.
“People waste their lives on the street, and I know that for fact because I was on the street,” she said.
“If you make that choice -- if you want change -- things will work out with you.
“Life is beautiful when you’re not drinking or drugging.”
Food Security and Homelessness Action Week continues today (Friday) with a Thanksgiving dinner at the Indian Métis Friendship Centre from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
A tenancy education program presentation will be held at the Prince Albert Arts Centre at 1010 Central Ave. at 2 p.m., and the day will cap off with a potluck dinner at the Grace Mennonite Church, at 250 28th St. W. at 6 p.m., accompanied by live music.
Saturday will see volunteers go door-to-door collecting food donations for the Prince Albert Food Bank Annual Food Drive, beginning at 10 a.m.