Homeless organizers speak out

Homeless leaders march against criminalization of the homeless in San Francisco in July. PHOTO/SARAH MENEFEE

Homeless leaders march against criminalization of the homeless in San Francisco in July.


SAN FRANCISCO, CA — On July 31, WRAP (Western Regional Advocacy Project) brought activists with homeless-led member organizations from all over California and the West, from as far away as Denver, to protest the criminalization of homeless people and demand the Right to Rest and the adoption of a Homeless Bill of Rights.

The first quote below is from one of the speakers at the spirited march and rally:

“People are getting arrested for looking for a decent place to sleep. What does that tell you? It tells you they don’t care about us. We got to stand up and fight back. You walk down the streets here, how many people sleeping on the streets, how many people without housing? Even  people that work, they can’t afford it.  And the shelters are the new prisons.”

—Ibrahim Bilal Mubarak – WRAP and Right 2 Survive, Portland OR

The two quotes below are from two Bay Area members of ‘First they came for the homeless’ which has organized multiple direct actions against unjust laws and harassment, including an ongoing one-year vigil against the stealing of the commons and for the right to sleep, among other issues:

“Sleep is not just a right, it is a necessity. To quote a recent case brought by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Director, ‘sleep is a life-sustaining activity’, along with others that are being criminalized. They are trying to drive homeless people away by harassment. What they don’t realize, the problems this causes makes things worse. Sleep deprivation causes mental distress and illness. Then when people act out the system will crack down harder, causing even more problems. This is inhumane. It’s a vicious cycle that makes everything worse.”

—Mike Zint, ’First they came for the homeless’, Berkeley and San Francisco

They are scapegoating homeless people using the same methods the Nazis used to set people up for genocide and make it socially acceptable. This goes from criminalizing laws, to the drumbeat in the media about ‘quality of life’, to police harassment, brutality and outright murders of unarmed homeless people.

The defense of homeless rights is the defense of our whole class against the brutal rule of the billionaire capitalist class and its fascist agenda. From sit-down resistance to the so-called ‘sit/lie laws’, to organized squatting and housing takeovers, to defying these injustices on every level, the battle for the program of the homeless for rights, dignity and homes is a fight for all of us. ‘We only get what we are organized to take’. Right now we need to organize to take the power to guarantee that the wealth created by society belongs to all of society, and is distributed according to need. That is the remedy for homelessness.
—Sarah Menefee, ‘First they came for the homeless’ and the People’s Tribune, San Francisco

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