CKUT’s Homelessness Marathon: people -powered radio discussing homelessness in the open

CKUT 90.3 will be holding their 9th annual Homelessness Marathon starting at 5pm on Wednesday February 23rd until Thursday morning in front of the Native Friendship Center (2001 Saint-Laurent boulevard). Year after year, the CKUT Homelessness Marathon gives a voice to the homeless and those who work to help them. On the marathon’s agenda are topics addressing urban poverty and homelessness over a 14 hour stretch of people-powered radio.

courtesey of ckut.ca

The marathon serves as a spotlight for those relating their experiences, struggles and successes within the issues of poverty and homelessness. By bringing together radio hosts, CLSC social workers and organizations like Cactus, the marathon also serves as a testimony of hope and proof of the collective action that’s happening on the streets of Montreal. Some of the marathon’s other partners, which include the Peoples’ Potato, Midnight Kitchen and Santropol are teaming up to offer coffee and food to attendees, passersby and volunteer staff in front of the Native Friendship center (which will be open 24 hours during this all-night event).

The marathon, which is completely run by volunteers, street-level social workers and dozens of partner radio stations across the country, primarily seeks to bring homelessness and poverty to the forefront of public dialogue. Gretchen King, the national coordinator for the Homelessness Marathon, affirms that homelessness and poverty “are issues that touch every one of us.” The Marathon’s mandate, in King’s words, is “to develop an awareness and a political willingness” which have a potential to lead to more action, and thus more results, than playing the political game or collecting funds.

The first homelessness marathon was the brainchild of New Yorker radio host Jeremy Alderson. Alderson states on the U.S. Marathon’s homepage that fundamental changes in the nation’s priorities are necessary to make considerable progress and “the mission of the marathon is to ignite a national dialogue about what these changes should be.” Ultimately, ending homelessness is not a matter of charity, but a matter of changing the way our society is structured.

King also attributes the continuation of poverty to the endless push-back of this topic on the public and political agenda, stating that the government is increasingly taking a back seat on development of social housing and “are obviously not engaged in really dealing with the structural and social issues surrounding homelessness.”

2009 image of the Marathon courtesy of tasteyourfreedomthefilm.com/tyfblog/

With homeless shelters overflowing and an estimated 30 000 homeless people living in Montreal in 2010 according to L’Itinéraire‘s editor in chief (February 2011), homelessness and poverty should be hot topics in the Government’s agenda during these cold winter months. Despite the evidence of a growing need for more government funding to build and maintain social housing, day centers and other resources for the homeless, spending for the social sphere is inadequate for the demand that presents itself (Info RAPSIM, L’Itinéraire Feb. 2011).

The statistics of homelessness in Montreal are as dismal as having to stay outside all night in one of the coldest countries in the world. King describes the experience of spending the night outside during the diffusion of the Marathon’s programming as “brutal… You lose your ability to speak fluidly. But being outside is a part of what I want to take in [from the marathon].”

While the topic of homelessness comes very close to home for many Montrealers, this tough topic is tagged with a lot of hope coming from the Marathon crew. “If we can take these 14 hours and translate that into 365 day experience, we’d treat the issue [of homelessness] completely different” (King).

For a full list of program topics, coordinates, and instructions for the live stream, visit http://ckut.ca/homeless/ for more details. You’re encouraged to tune in or show up and contribute (live!) to the marathon in order to take in the full experience.

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9th Annual Homelessness Marathon – Wednesday 5pm until Thursday 7am @ the Native Friendship Center (2001 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Saint-Laurent metro). CKUT Contact : Gretchen King, marathon@ckut.ca.

Native Friendship Center (2001 Saint-Laurent boulevard) – http://www.nfcm.org/

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