‘The time is so ripe!’: an interview with homeless movement activist Savina Martin

 

Editor’s note: Savina Martin is a long-time activist for the poor, with such groups as the National Union of the Homeless and others. She currently lives in Boston, MA.

People’s Tribune: It is very good talking to you and catching up! What activities are you are involved in now?
Savina Martin: I am broadly involved in the poverty movement as well as the homeless movement. A couple of years ago, around Easter, a group of homeless men and women were let out of a shelter with no notice. Some were in recovery and working on getting stabilized. Four or five days later they showed up at a Homeless Solidarity Group meeting, about 15 guys, saying they wanted to start a Union of the Homeless. Also, we just had a Poor People’s Campaign event in Boston with Reverend Barber, a thousand people attended.

PT: What is the situation with homelessness there?
SM: There’s opioid use going on, and there’s no housing. The conditions have really deteriorated, sanitary-wise, but the workers are so stressed they can’t provide even the basics like hygiene supplies. Funding has dried up, local and federal. People fill out an application for housing, but the housing list has a 20-year wait. This country can no longer provide the things that people need. People living in the shelters are working, but only making enough for their basic survival. You’re in a cycle of poverty. If you don’t have the survival skills on the streets you just die. You lose your children and families deteriorate. They are broken and the children go to foster care. The poverty, it’s just a mess.
I’ve also been dealing with homeless women who are veterans. I’m a veteran myself. I worked in a veteran’s tent in California, 150 veterans, and I worked for the VA here in Boston.

PT: What do you see as the next step for the homeless movement? What can be done tactically by the homeless themselves to put this on the national agenda?
SM: What we are doing is inviting homeless groups and organizations to ‘get on the mile train’: join together, join the Poor People’s Campaign, have educationals. Education is the key. I believe in civil disobedience, taking over abandoned property. People who have nothing are so inundated and just trying to survive, and winter is coming. We get burned out. I tell people, come on, let’s talk together, use the media we have in our hands. Through education, people become empowered. We need to stick together. Try to make it to a meeting. We’ll pick you up. We need another National Union of the Homeless, share its history. We have to understand what we’re up against. People are looking for something, and the time is so key and ripe.

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