Monday 4 May 2020

Letter to Selina Robinson, Minister of Housing and Shayne Ramsay, CEO of BC Housing

Today Sanctuary Health sent the following letter to Selina Robinson, Minister of Housing and Shayne Ramsay, CEO of BC Housing:

Dear Selina Robinson and Shayne Ramsay,

Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that organizes with people with precarious immigration status--especially women of colour and children--to push for access to all services regardless of immigration status. We are writing to request support from the provincial government for families with precarious or no immigration status in BC who have lost work due to COVID 19, and are at risk of becoming homeless.

Families with precarious or no immigration status are excluded from both federal support (including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the GST/HST Credit Payment or the Canada Child Benefit) and provincial support (including the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, BC Temporary Rental Supplement Program, the BC Climate Action Tax Credit). Many are unable to pay rent, and are being threatened and exploited by landlords. Landlords are demanding money that families simply do not have, and we are afraid that they will exploit the families’ immigration status to circumvent the eviction moratorium.

One mother in this position shares: “My biggest fear is that we are going to end up on the street, us and our two kids,” she said. “People like us, working in construction or cleaning, we are essential workers. Help in this crisis must be universal.”

The right to housing is an essential human right that should be recognized regardless of immigration status. Without financial support, people with precarious immigration status will not be able to ‘stay home’ or ‘social distance.’ Our health is interconnected - the protection of public health requires supporting all communities to be able to follow the PHO’s guidelines.

The BC Government already has programs in place, like BC Housing’s Homeless Prevention Program, that provide accessible housing support for at risk populations through community organizations who have relationships with them. We are urgently requesting that the BC Government include individuals with precarious or no immigrations status when planning support for at risk populations.

Sanctuary Health has fundraised through GoFundMe to provide food to 90 families every week, and we are partnering with Watari Counselling and Support Services Society to try to further fundraise for the upcoming rent crisis. We are also working with the Migrant Rights Network to advocate for policy change at the federal level. Despite our best efforts, this community response will not be enough to prevent homelessness without the support from the provincial government.

We are requesting to meet with you to further discuss the urgent needs of this community that we support, and strategies for how the Government of BC can address these needs.


Sanctuary Health