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Solidarity Radio

Halifax participates in nationwide broadcast on homelessness

by Jill Ratcliffe

Participants in this year's Homelessness Marathon in Halifax.  Photo: Jill Ratcliffe
Participants in this year's Homelessness Marathon in Halifax. Photo: Jill Ratcliffe

Service providers, artists, musicians, writers, speakers, broadcasters and everyone in between gathered at St. Matthews Church on February 23 to provide the people-power for a nationwide radio broadcast on homelessness. “We shared delicious food, engaged in good conversation, and most importantly we listened” said one volunteer. The small gym felt inviting, full of tables and chairs, free food and hot drinks, and a large listening circle centered on the radio.

For eight years running the all night “Homelessness Marathon” has added its voice to the dialogue on homelessness. The night’s events in the Saint Matthews Church gymnasium were organized by CKDU 88.1 fm, in partnership with thirty-five other campus and community radio stations. After listening to the on-air interviews and conducting a few of my own, the messages that resonated most clearly were calling for compassion and solidarity in the struggle to end homelessness.

 “We are attempting to examine the roots of homelessness and point out the structural inequalities that exist in the current economic system”, said Capp Larsen an organizer with the Out of the Cold Shelter who spoke about grass roots responses to poverty. “We live in a society where housing is a commodity, landlords gain profit from rental housing. Until we struggle against housing as a for-profit commodity we will have homelessness.”

Patti Clappison spoke about her experience and political philosophies about mental heath and poverty during one of the live on-air discussions. Patti asked listeners to understand the strength it takes to be homeless. “People persevere, it takes so much strength just to wake-up, to endure judgement, collect bottles and cans just to get a coffee and doughnut.” She explained that structural barriers have been erected to exclude homeless people from accessing social support. “Pendleton Place used to exist as a wet/dry shelter but now shelters don’t let them in. Where are the homeless to go when they get turned away?” 

Ann Duffy has been a neighbourhood advocate for the past 20 years throughout HRM. Ann recognizes that a solution to homelessness can be found by simply building more affordable housing. “The solution to homelessness is that the Feds and the Province need to get the money to build housing.”

Into the week hours of the morning, musicians packed into the makeshift studio to perform a wide variety of improvised music.  Selwyn Sharples and Beau LaBute took part in the live on-air jam. After playing they offered a few words about the connections between improvised music and homelessness. “Jamming is the most basic connection, collaborating and survival, all people need each other,” said Selwyn. “Working together and working in unknown terrain is a celebration of commonality and connectivity.”

We are “working on the skill of listening to one another,” said Beau. Jokingly he added, “We should get the politicians to jam with us.”

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