Mutual Aid Groups Try To Keep Unhoused Neighbors Alive In The Snow

While the City of Seattle swept her home at Ballard Commons, an unhoused woman cried out to the city workers, mutual aid groups, and other community members packing up the park.

“Why don’t they come up with a solution that actually makes sense?” she said of the city. “Put people indoors. Do they think we want to be out here in the middle of winter? No! We’re not crazy.”

That was three weeks ago. It was 40 degrees that day.

Monday, Dec. 27, the city shivered under a high of 23 degrees, the coldest day in 31 years. The risk associated with hypothermia in the cold weather was greater than the risk of contracting COVID-19, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County. That afternoon, Dr. Stephen Morris, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at UW Medicine, told the Seattle Times that Harborview Medical Center saw one cold weather-related death, two “critically ill” patients, and approximately six people admitted for hypothermia.

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Lessons From The National Union Of The Homeless

This July, unhoused leaders set up tents in front of Atlanta City Hall to demand a meeting with city officials. They were met by nearly 60 armed police officers who gave them 15 minutes to disperse. Only moments later, 10 of the activists — members of the newly-formed Atlanta Homeless Union — were arrested.

The group had four demands: permanent housing, health care, access to water and sanitation, and a “seat at the table” to negotiate with city officials regarding housing policy. “Nobody else that’s not walking in our shoes gonna tell us what to do,” the unhoused leaders announced in their first press release. “Teach us how to fish, and we’ll eat forever. The homeless have unionized, and we’re here for what we deserve.”

The Atlanta Homeless Union came into being at a critical moment for the nearly 600,000 people experiencing homelessness across the nation — a number that is likely much higher since data on homelessness hasn’t been gathered since before the pandemic.

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Squatters’ History

On September 8th 1946, some 1500 men, women and children occupied properties in Kensington and Chelsea as part of the largest single direct action of trespass in a year marked by the squatting of military camps and empty residences across the UK.

In defiance of the risk of arrest and absolutely zero guarantee of any rights to remain, these actions were executed with meticulous planning and coordination, with people arriving with their possessions in lorries and being directed by volunteers.

Over 100 families entered the luxury flats of the Duchess of Bedford House, via conveniently unlocked doors and skylights. Within days overspill properties were opened near Regent’s Park, spreading through the city to the Ivanhoe Hotel in Bloomsbury and Fountain Court on Buckingham Palace Road.

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PEACH Provides Palliative Care For Homeless And Vulnerably Housed

A child of refugees who fled war-torn Uganda in the 1970s, a young Naheed Dosani grew up having conversations about social injustice, inequity and poverty at the family’s Scarborough home. “I have always pondered what a life is worth,” he says, “and why our health and social systems are designed to value some lives over those of others.”

This was especially the case after the challenges of the last year. A palliative care physician who works with some of the city’s most vulnerable, Dosani said that “COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted people who experience structural vulnerabilities. Pandemics are like guided missiles. They target the most vulnerable. The disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on three groups — racialized communities, essential workers and people who experience homelessness — are all textbook examples of its devastating impact.”

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City Hall Protest Over NYC Homeless Relocations Leads To 11 Arrests

Housing advocates dubbed de Blasio a broken record for his repetitive phrases such as a “Recovery for all” and references to New York’s bright future, which they say ostracizes the homeless community. In response to the mayor’s “empty promises,” several organizations held the “de Blasio Broken Record” Action, during which they demanded a halt to the transferal of unhoused individuals from hotels to shelters.

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Advocates Rally Against NYC’s Moving Homeless From Hotels To Shelters

New York City — A march and rally against New York City’s decision to move about 8,000 homeless individuals from hotels to shelters was held Saturday.

The process has been put on hold, but many say it shouldn’t have happened to begin with.

Homeless advocates blasted the city for pushing those sheltered in hotels back to congregate living.

“Don’t you know housing is a human right?” one speaker said.

Just as the city ramped up moving some 8,000 homeless people out of the hotels, a lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Society brought the process to a standstill, including at the Hotel at Fifth Avenue.

“They woke us up early in the morning, banging on the doors at six, telling us to make sure we’re packed and ready to go, and then they’re stuffing all of us back to the same place that we just left from,” shelter resident Chantel Estrella said.

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Louisville Is Failing Homeless People This Winter

As much of Louisville remains under a layer of ice and with another winter storm on the way, the city is doing nothing to keep alive its homeless population, several advocates contended Saturday evening.

Leaders from local homeless outreach organizations spoke in front of Hotel Louisville Saturday night, demanding city leaders address what they called a humanitarian crisis.

Donny Greene, co-founder of Feed Louisville, said the city has given excuses for not helping people left outside in the below-freezing temperatures, contending there is no shelter space available.

“The truth of the matter is the city is currently housing homeless people … in hotels in the city, and they have the ability to do that for everyone,” Greene said.

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Policing And Punishment In Minneapolis’ ‘SafeZone’

The criminal “justice” apparatus faces increasing criticism for emphasizing punishment, violent abuse and incarceration of criminals rather than rehabilitation. However, few observers recognize the active role community “justice” programs and businesses play in this displacement. The public/private SafeZone initiative launched in downtown Minneapolis in 2004 serves as an instructive example of how programs lauded as reforms can still impose punitive “law and order” tactics onto targeted populations.

“A month ago I was driving down Nicollet going to pick up my girl, somebody shot at me, twice!” Demetri (whose real name is being protected) said in an electrified voice. 

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Court Orders Quebec Government To Exempt Homeless People From Curfew

Police in Quebec can no longer fine people for being homeless after eight o’clock.

In a cutting decision delivered late Tuesday, Superior Court judge Chantal Masse ordered the provincial government to exempt people without housing from a curfew that subjected them to fines of up to $6,000 for being outside after 8 p.m.

Masse said the curfew put the lives of homeless people at risk and that the province’s network of shelters doesn’t have the capacity to provide a warm bed for all its unhoused people. She also rejected the government’s argument that police were only ticketing those who refused help, citing evidence from the plaintiffs that showed a lack of discretion from officers.

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Emergency Urbanism

Los Angeles is on the brink of one of the largest mass displacements in the history of the region. As eviction courts reopen, nearly half a million renter households, concentrated in Black and Latinx neighborhoods, are at risk of expulsion through unlawful detainers, or eviction filings—UD Day is here. In a deal struck with the landlord and banker lobbies, the California legislature has put forward tenant protections that postpone some evictions, keeping tenants in a state of permanent displaceability. In a cruel hoax, such protections convert unpaid rent into debt, turning the small-claims court into yet another arena of violence against working-class communities of color.

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Chris Hedges: This Is Kabir’s America

Robert “Kabir” Luma was 18 when he found himself in the wrong car with the wrong people. He would pay for that misjudgment with 16 years and 54 days of his life, locked away for a crime he did not participate in and did not know was going to take place. Released from prison, he was tossed onto the street, without financial resources and, because of fines and fees imposed on him by the court system, $7,000 of debt. He ended up broke in a homeless shelter in Newark, populated with others who could not afford a place to live, addicts and the mentally ill. The shelter was filthy, infested with lice and bedbugs.

“You have to chain your food up in the refrigerator,” he said, wearing a worn, ripped sweatshirt, when I met him at the Newark train station. “There’s a chain on the door. There’s no stove. There’s one microwave that is on its way out. It stinks. I’m trying to stay positive.”

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Seattle: Get Police Out Of Handling Homeless

The National Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness wrote to the mayor of Seattle this week demanding the removal of the Seattle police department from a team handling homelessness.

It recommended that the $2.6 million that goes to police to address the issue instead go to organizations that specialize in serving Indigenous people experiencing homelessness.

Coalition partners Chief Seattle Club, Mother Nation, Seattle Indian Health Board and United Indians of All Tribes Foundations signed the Wednesday letter.

“Police officers are not the best-suited to respond to our homeless community’s needs,” Mike Tulee, Yakama, executive director of United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, said in a statement.

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Homeless Philadelphians Moving Into Vacant City-Owned Homes

Philadelphia, PA – Housing advocates plan to reveal today that they’ve facilitated moving previously-unhoused city residents into “vacant, viable” homes in North Philly owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA). According to those who are helping families move in, a large number of usable residences are being intentionally left vacant by the PHA so that they can be sold to developers.

The process of finding empty PHA-owned homes, fixing them up, and helping to move people in is a collaboration between ‘Occupy PHA’ and the Revolutionary Workers Collective.

The ‘move-in’ process began during the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, but now has a sense of added urgency against the backdrop of nationwide unrest and struggles for justice during uprisings after the police murder of George Floyd in May.

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In Absence Of State Action, Organizers Help Homeless People During Pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, collectives sharing free food with the hungry were facing a sharp uptick in state repression.

In Arizona, Tucson Police Park Safety warned the public that sharing food in public parks is illegal in a statement posted to Twitter on February 7. In response, the People’s Defense Initiative in Tucson started a petition and organized a rally at the City Hall on February 19 to “remind Tucson leadership that feeding the hungry is never a crime!”

Free Hot Soup, a group that serves food to over a hundred people in a Portland, Oregon, park five nights a week, sued the city in November 2019 after it introduced a new “social service” law. The law creates new bureaucratic hurdles for solidarity services including food handling permits, insurance coverage, dumpsters, security, and restricts the services to once per week per park.

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The Homeless Can’t Shelter-in-Place

Chris was given a test for COVID-19 in the middle of the night. 

It was just past 1 a.m., and he entered Lenox Hill Hospital’s emergency room on the Upper East Side with a headache and runny nose. He had been living unsheltered on and off since 2018, passing many nights sleeping in hospital waiting rooms or 24/7 FedEx stores throughout Manhattan. But then early March hit. The city began to close down as the coronavirus spread. His usual resting spots — including Starbucks and Pret a Manger — were closed. 

In need of a place to rest and use the bathroom, he entered the Lenox Hill emergency room where he’d taken refuge many nights before. This time, Chris, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, was tested for the coronavirus.

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