One thing is clear, in light of the incredible dystopia that is the current administration, we need more and more groups like WRAP working side-by-side, raising our voices and our power together to say “hell no” to rampant criminalization of poor and houseless folks and “hell yes” to safe, affordable homes and communities.
We wish we didn’t have to be here because we had achieved all of our goals. But until we do, we are grateful to do this work with all of you. We have a $15,000 1:1 match for all gifts in November and December from some very kind and generous donors. Give today and your gift will be doubled. Thank you for your support!
I’m really old, and in 1983 I was just coming up off the streets myself. We were opening shelter programs. They were registered with the city, as temporary facilities. Now we’re into this 35 years later. It’s time for us to stop a welfare mentality and talk about equality – talk about justice!
It’s up to us. When we say us, I am never going to separate out the service providers from the community organizers, the homeless people from the social workers, the artists from the researchers, the lawyers from the janitors – We need to get into some serious discussions on how we build a “WE.” We need to be clear that we will not accept this anymore! And we need to have a plan to follow through.
WRAP connects with the New Poor People’s Campaign, the squatters movement, healthcare rights. All of it is interrelated. These are all human rights. We need to start living our lives like it is all interrelated. We can move this forward! We need to keep getting together and making connections and get out in the street together. If you’re going to fight and sometimes get your ass kicked, at least have a good time building power with good people.
We need to put ourselves out of business. We shouldn’t be a business in the first place. A healthy community doesn’t have homeless programs. A healthy community doesn’t need a McKinney-Vento homeless coordinator for students going to school. A healthy community has kick-ass education, health care, affordable housing and everything you need to get out of poverty.
But we have to be willing to fight for this. Power gives nothing without a fight. Damn it, this is wrong! It’s wrong that we’re here after 35-years. It’s wrong that we’re fighting re-definitions of homelessness – creating the “poorly housed” – instead of just housing everyone.
The way that we build accountability into our processes is street outreach. We have to talk to people. We’re accountable to each other. Sleeping, standing and sitting. That is what people are being criminalized for. We all sleep, stand and sit. Everyone who wrote these laws sleeps, stands, sits. All the cops sleep, stand and sit. You know you’re not going to jail for it unless the cop thinks you’re homeless, Black, mentally ill or Latino. We are fighting this!
Just like ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council – look ‘em up – they’re scary as hell!), we’ve created our own bill, the Right to Rest Act, based in fighting these laws. We’ve run our bill now for four years, introduced eight times in 3 states. Based in serious analysis, we’ve written a bill that takes away the power of local governments to pass a law that criminalizes life-sustaining activities for people who are poor and homeless. It takes away the right of local governments to pass a law that they know damn well everyone is going to violate but only one group will get punished. Ugly laws, Jim Crow laws, Anti-Okie laws: These are laws that this country has a long-storied history with. They call them “quality-of-life laws.” We call them morally bankrupt and specifically designed to get rid of homeless people and people of color. Their number has skyrocketed over the same period-of time that the federal affordable housing funding has been decimated.
We see these laws come on the books being pushed by the Business Improvement Districts and then we see some local communities and city councils say “no, that is just too much.” We need to applaud each win and each time a group says “no, we’re not going to do that.” We need to highlight this resistance.
We will build on these wins and fight for housing and the homeless bill of rights in all our communities – so people can be free from discriminatory policing while they are just trying to survive.
Again, thank you for your work and thank you for your support of WRAP. Here’s to ending our jobs and ending criminalization through creating a system that works with housing for everyone!
Paul Boden, Executive Director
Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP)