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March 8, International Women’s Day, commemorates the struggle of women garment makers in New York sweatshops in 1911. Trapped in a horrible fire behind locked doors, 146 people perished, but the factory owners were acquitted of any wrongdoing.  In memory of those workers, March 8 was designated as the day on which people all  over the world remember the contributions women bring to the fight for social equality.

Sandusky, Ohio — People wait for job interviews.

From the editors

International Women’s Day, 2009, finds our country at a critical juncture.  Corporations we once thought to be the foundation of the country are bankrupt. Banks that yesterday were telling the government to stay out of their business are today begging for loans or gifts. Millions of houses sit vacant and foreclosed while more people are homeless. Everything we thought was stable is vanishing.  One basic fact of our society — the increasing oppression of women — remains. 
As businesses fail and robots take the place of workers, a new class of dispossessed is forming with women at its very heart. Women are the numerical majority in society and the majority in this new class. Since this class lacks ties to the system or to property they alone have the possibility of building a new world from the ashes of the old.
Today, one-third of all families maintained by women live below the poverty level. Families headed by women of color are disproportionately poor. To this deplorable situation we can add the growing number of women and their families who are newly poor, and who are visiting food banks and homeless shelters for the first time.
Consequently, women’s position makes them key to social change. No one has to tell the mother living in the street that those abandoned usable apartments the government owns should instead house her family. No one has to tell her that society has a responsibility to provide healthcare for all.
Given the economic changes that are sweeping the country, we can expect increased attempts to blame impoverished women for capitalism’s ills. For example, why a mother with six children wants more children may make a good human-interest story, but it has no point. The point is that the revolution in the economy — and new labor replacing technology of the robot and computer — is throwing more and more people out of the job market and into destitution. Instead of boring us about the most natural thing in evolution, why not expose the corporations and the billionaires who are robbing the country blind? Why not attack the fact that billions are given to the corporations while millions of families go without healthcare, housing and food? Instead, we can already discern attempts to divide the poor. Those that “worked hard” are being pitted against those “who don’t want to work.”
It is the capitalist system, based on the drive for maximum profit, that creates destitution. The only solution is to join with the already dispossessed to get rid of this dying system. The conditions for change exist today. But, without women playing a conscious role, a revolutionary movement for a new society cannot be consolidated.
Now is the time for revolutionaries  — women and men — to provide the indispensable ingredient of change: new ideas! The “new” idea is to create a new social system based on this principle: to each according to their need, from each according to their individual talents and skills. As Jane Adams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” Herein lies the importance of a powerful women’s movement.
It’s time to deliver a new society.

By Eric Sheptock

WASHINGTON, D.C. — People are always asking me about the mayor’s “housing first” plan known as Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). They want to know when the Dept. of Human Services (DHS) will resume housing the homeless like they were doing right after the Franklin School Shelter closure. Well, the word is out and it’s not good. To grasp the full gravity of the situation, you must first understand what has transpired hereto now.
     D.C  Mayor Adrian Fenty announced his housing plan for DC’s chronically homeless in April 2008. That plan included housing 400 homeless singles and 100 homeless families per year for 5 years and included 2 more years to work out all the kinks. That would’ve meant that 2,000 homeless singles and 500 families would be housed by 2014. This would’ve also metSpeakers some requirements of the 10 year plan to end homelessness. (The plan, adopted in December, 2004, actually called for 2,500 units of Permanent Supportive Housing plus 3,500 units of affordable housing. People have all but forgotten about the latter provision.)
     In order to justify the Franklin School Shelter closure and pacify the homeless community, the mayor needed to create at least 300 housing units for men – the number of beds Franklin had. As of February 25th, 2009, 414 homeless singles and 1 family had been housed.
     In November, 2008, the DC Council cut the budgets of various departments. The homeless and their advocates came out in force to protest the massive cuts to the housing programs and managed to have some of the money put back. Even so, DC Government’s efforts to house the homeless have slowed. The economy has sunk further into despair. The money has not and will not be returned to the respective departments. And the homeless have been given a new ray of hopelessness.
     On February 25th, the D.C. government’s Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH) broke the bad news to us. Those homeless singles who’ve not been assigned a caseworker already most likely will not be housed this year. Fortunately for homeless families, they are becoming the new focus of DHS.
     All of this brings two truths to mind. One is that, during an economic downturn, we need a social safety net. The other is that, social services are the first programs to be defunded. All in all, the homeless community of our nation’s capital was just told that 2,700 homeless singles and almost 300 families who’ve applied for housing won’t be housed this year. (D.C. has at least 6,044 homeless people.)
     The silver lining (if there is any) is that President Obama’s stimulus package contains about $40 billion for the homeless and for affordable housing. I’m inclined to believe that those $40 billion amount to putting a band-aid on someone who is experiencing a “general crisis”. Nonetheless, we’ll take what we can get in the way of relief.

This is a shortened version of a longer article.


This article originated in the People's Tribune
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