As the ongoing crisis in the economy, the rising cost of rents and housing, and the lack of livable wages everywhere pushes people into the streets by the millions—men, women and children—cities are going on the attack against people simply for being in the streets without a home. Many children and college students are homeless and hungry, some colleges even running food banks on campus. Last year the UN Rapporteur for Housing, after visiting homeless encampments around the country and hearing people’s testimonies, condemned as ‘inhumane’ the extreme poverty and brutal treatment of the victims of social inequality, and the buying-up of properties for massive profits from grossly inflated rents by financial consortiums such as Blackstone.
Homeless people across the country have been pushing in various forms for the right to sleep, camp or sit in public places and be left alone by the police, and to not have their possessions confiscated and destroyed. At the same time, there have been seemingly coordinated attacks on tent encampments, in California and all across the country. In Denver, a recent Right to Survive ballot initiative was defeated, after businesses poured millions of dollars into a campaign of lies and scaremongering against it.
Recently, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced H.R. 1856, the Ending Homelessness Act of 2019. This act would allocate $13.3 billion over a ten-year period for housing and supportive services for homeless people. She is one of the few in government speaking to the issue. She stated:
“In the richest country in the world, it is simply unacceptable that we have people living in the streets. Today, there are over a half million people experiencing homelessness nationwide. Nearly 160,000 of them are children and nearly 38,000 are veterans who we have failed to support after their service to our nation.”
People are saying in various ways, through words and actions – often very organized actions—that they will not be passive victims of a system that attacks them, when there are enough resources to decently house every person in this country. In tent and vehicle-dwellers’ communities, people stabilize their lives and create a movement for the right to shelter themselves, as well as for housing as a human right and a social priority. That could begin with the repair and repopulating of public housing affordable to low and no-income people, as well as protective rent control, and other social support. That is a society worth organizing for, from a tent on up to the halls of government.