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March, 2006

Vision and the Fight for a New World

This column is a place for revolutionaries to debate why a cooperative society is a practical solution to the problems people are fighting out. We welcome your thoughts about the articles we are running and we welcome your articles. You can view all articles at here. E-mail sandy@lrna.org or write: People's Tribune, P.O. Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654

Nationalize housing with tenant control, says fighter for the poor

Editor's note: The People's Tribune interviewed Rev. Bruce Wright, MA, DMin., CPAC, MAC, DVC IV, director of "The Refuge," in St. Petersburg, Florida, who has a long history of fighting to end poverty. He says the scriptures call on us to reach out to empower, support and recognize the role the poor play in improving their lives. He is available to speak through Speakers for a New America. Call 800-691-6888 or email info@speakersforanewamerica.com for bookings.

mother and daughter

People's Tribune: Why is homelessness growing in Florida?

Bruce Wright: Because of the redevelopment and high cost of housing, and downsizing. People are being displaced. Mobile home parks are closing. On every street corner you see people sleeping. There's a whole area by the ocean with homeless camps. We've seen a 20% increase over the year in St. Petersburg. There's about 10,000 homeless in the area. The white poor represent the vast majority of people on the street. The largest number are women and children.

PT: What are the cities and federal government doing?

BW: The nearby city of Sarasota passed an anti-camping ordinance making it illegal for the homeless to sleep on the streets. (The National Coalition for the Homeless called Sarasota the second meanest city in the country.) Following on the heels of that, St. Petersburg is looking at expanding its own anti-panhandling and anti-camping ordinances. St. Petersburg is starting to crack down even without the ordinance. The federal government funding has been cut big time.

PT: How are people surviving?

BW: Many are in hotels. By the end of the month, they have paid over $1000. Sometimes several people are in a room. We find more than one family in an efficiency apartment. They have to dodge the state because they come in to yank kids away . In one room, there is a single mom with a child, a couple with two children, and another single mom with three children. So three families are in one bedroom.

PT: What are community groups doing?

BW: Grassroots groups are networking. The Refuge formed a homeless advisory committee of homeless and formerly homeless. Others are trying to get housing through the corporate privatized community. But the average home costs $275,000.

PT: What steps can we take toward a society where housing is a right?

BW: Private controlled funding is disastrous. We're seeing the consequences of destroying the public infrastructure. The scriptures call on us to reach out to empower, support and recognize the role that the poor play in improving their lives. We need to nationalize the housing industry with tenant control. Tenants of housing would have direct say over the quality of housing they need. It would be funded by the public instead of private interests whose bottom line is profit.


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PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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