How to Abolish Homelessness
Joseph Edwards and Bernice Gonzalez,
By Sandy Perry
Over 100 students and community members gathered on April 9 at UC Merced at a forum called "Abolishing Homelessness", organized by UC faculty and leaders of the California Central Valley Journey for Justice.
The highlight of the day was the honoring of Bernice Gonzalez and Joseph Edwards. The two were sleeping under a bridge by Merced"s Bear Creek last December 17, when a car carrying four college students careened off the road and into the water. Bernice and Joseph saved the lives of all four of them by diving repeatedly into the icy water until all were pulled to safety.
Other highlights included a powerful presentation, with a host of photographs by Community Alliance journalist Mike Rhodes on the homelessness crisis in Fresno. Among the numerous other panelists, break-out sessions and testimonies, the presence of Tenants Together leaders was especially notable. They are currently organizing foreclosed tenants in Merced to understand and demand their rights. They accurately pointed out that defending tenants against eviction is the first line of defense against homelessness.
The importance of the event was signified by the fact that noted former Bush administration homelessness consultant Philip F. Mangano appeared. He apparently felt it was necessary to attempt to defend his dubious record of "Ten Year Plans" to end homelessness. As leaders from Fresno, Sacramento, and San Jose all pointed out at the forum, the problem with the Ten Year Plans was that invariably the cities that adopted them experience not an end to homelessness, but an INCREASE with every passing year. Using clever innuendo, Mangano was highly critical of most of the people in the room, blaming them for "haranguing" and "lambasting" government and for wasting their time expressing moral outrage against homelessness. Falsifying the history of the abolitionists, suffragists, and civil rights leaders, Mangano claimed that the lessons of these movements teach us that the way to get results is by "cooperating with government".
The problem is that the government has been captured by corporations and is itself creating homelessness, and more and more of it every day. Our increasingly automated economy requires fewer and fewer workers, so corporations now refuse to pay taxes for housing and the other necessities we need to survive. Who can believe Mangano when there are FEWER JOBS and FEWER HOMES now than when he started "ending homelessness" in 2002? The answer is not to cooperate with Wall Street-dominated government, but to organize to REPLACE it with a real, legitimate one - of the people, by the people, and for the people. It has been done before, it can be done again. The people need jobs and housing NOW!
While Cabrini Evicts, Hundreds of Thousands of Chicagoans Need Affordable Housing
Erica Flowers and her daughter, Zaterrica,
By Joseph Peery
Last year the CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) reopened it 's waiting list for the first time since 1999. On the first day, 60,000 people applied. By the third day, the number had reached more than 125,000, and it continued to climb. CHA spokeswoman Kellie O 'Connell-Miller stated in the Chicago Tribune, "I don 't think this surprised us. It speaks to the need of affordable housing in the city." The application process went on for less than a month. No more statistics were given on the numbers of people who applied. They hired an outside firm to conduct a lottery to remove applicants from the list until it was down to 40, 000. However, 5,000 people who had applied before 1999 were moved to the top, displacing 5,000 from the lottery list. And so, in real numbers, we have 35,000 spots on a list for untold hundreds of thousands of people who applied for affordable housing, most of which hasn 't even been built yet.
The need for affordable housing in the city doesn 't just apply to the names on that list. On July 7, 2010, the Chicago Rehab Network described the situation like this: "A terrible and startling fact of the past decade is the number of households who are cost burdened in the city - paying more than 30% of their income for housing - which as of 2008 exceeded half of all Chicago households. Thirty percent of renters pay more than half of their monthly income for housing. Fully 70% of all households in Chicago are eligible for housing assistance based on their income."
Let us now move from cold hard facts to warm blooded human beings. What follows are excerpts from interviews with Erica Flowers, a part time teaching assistant and single mother who is still waiting for housing.
People 's Tribune: You 've been trying to move into CHA, tell us about that.
Erica Flowers: I was trying to move in since about 1999. I was offered Altgeld Gardens out in Riverdale, however I didn 't take it. It 's too far and it wasn 't one of my choices on my application. Because of the commute, my daughter 's school and where I work, I wanted a place as close to my area as possible which is Cabrini Green because I don 't have a vehicle. I got offered Savoy and Trumbull Park, so I decided to go with Savoy. I went in and gave my information, and then the lady wrote me a letter telling me I had something on my credit that prevented me from moving into one of her units. On my credit there was an eviction due to me struggling being a single mother, bills got caught up, I wasn 't able to pay market rent. . . that 's why I need affordable housing. I went back down to housing and gave them copies of the fact that I paid that debt off. I talked to the manager at Savoy and she said she 'd get back to me. That was 3 months ago. I filed for a mediation hearing with housing and I haven 't heard anything.
PT: What do you think CHA should do?
EF: I think they need to be reaching out to me and let me know if they are going to give me a unit. I need to know.
PT: What else do you want people to know about your case?
EF: They 're treating us as if we don 't have rights. We 're less of their standards because we need public housing. We 're human. . . there 's no way I should wait 12 years just to be denied. I don 't have a criminal background, I 've worked all my life.
PT: Are you in danger of becoming homeless?
EF: Yes. I 'm living with someone. I don 't have my own place and it 's just a shame.
This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 800-691-6888
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