Marpole Students for Modular Housing

On November 15, four Churchill students had their photo taken for Metro. On November 15, two Churchill students were featured in a CKNW article. On November 15, a Churchill student was interviewed on CBC. As of November 15, we’re famous. Actually though. Why? Because modular housing. Let’s rewind a bit.

Modular housing. Houses built in factories, then transported to a site. Not controversial. And the City of Vancouver has temporary modular housing projects in underused lots across the city to house low-income and homeless citizens. Not so controversial. And the City of Vancouver recently announced the plans for temporary modular housing at 59th and Heather for people in need of support services. Ah. Now, you see, that’s quite close to us here at Churchill. It’s quite close to Laurier and Ideal. And there’s the controversy. Many believe that modular housing, and those living in it, should be kept away from the vulnerable school children.

And so the movement “Marpole Students Against Modular Housing” was born. They had a protest. They have a Facebook group. They are concerned about young people walking past the homeless. An admin in their Facebook community posted that “Churchill students will live in fear every day.” Well. Let’s talk about that. Because most of us have probably done it before, walked past a homeless person quickly, head down. I did it, the other night. It was midnight and a guy on the street said something to me and I shook my head a bit and kept walking because it was midnight and it was a guy on the street. We can’t deny that some of us feel that fear. But the fear doesn’t come from an educated place. It comes from a place of stigma and cultural bias against people on the street. The people who will move into the modular housing units in Marpole are stable enough to be living in that community and paying rent. But the stigma remains. And that stigma won’t go away even if those modular housing units get shunted off to the isolation of Stanley Park. Yes, a protester against the modular housing really said that Stanley Park is the best place to put Vancouver’s homeless. The problem is, cutting vulnerable people off from kind human interaction and support by sending them out into the wilderness won’t solve the overwhelming stigma problem, and it won’t put these people in a good environment for recovery.

They are also concerned about needles. A child in Port Coquitlam was recently pricked by a discarded needle while playing on a playground. Yes, that’s bad. Yes, discarded needles are dangerous. But putting in some affordable housing doesn’t mean moving an army of drug dealers into the neighbourhood. It’s that stigma again. Residents will be screened, with priority given to people with disabilities, people over 45, and vulnerable people already living in that neighbourhood. The housing will have 24 hour staffing and, residents with a history of substance abuse will be encouraged to be part of a substance use management program. Systems like this modular housing project are safe way of addressing the homelessness crisis. Safer for us, and safer for the people living in the modular housing. Those living in a protected environment and being cared for are less likely to get involved with drugs. Supported living, such as there will be in the modular housing in Marpole, is a thought-out way of helping people towards fully independent living and becoming positive members of a community. Even if some of those people may, I don’t know, maybe once or twice – brace yourself, because this one’s a shocker – used a substance.

That’s the gist of what Marpole Students Against Modular Housing is about. And then there’s Marpole Students For Modular Housing. The famous ones on the news. Marpole Students For Modular Housing is a Facebook community that was created as a response to the protestors against modular housing, to show that Churchill students will not actually all live in fear every day. The movement doesn’t represent all Churchill students of course, and it’s not trying to pretend that it is. Marpole Students For Modular Housing is a group of people who are speaking out to show that even though there are opponents to the project there are also people who support it. Students who support it. Students who have actually done their research and see the benefits of the modular housing plan. Students who will not live in fear every day.

-Pippa Rogak, Grade 12 student, Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School

Reposted with permission from the group’s Facebook page

Want to lend your support to the group and their community? Join New Neighbours Welcoming Rally on Dec 5th!