We approach all our work from a human rights perspective. The US clearly has the resources to provide housing, food, clothing, and medical care for everyone living here. This fact isn’t in dispute. What is disputed is whether people have a basic right to these necessities or if the collective wealth of our society should be hoarded by a few. The debate on inequality and poverty has primarily revolved around “fixing” broken people rather than the broken system.
WRAP strives to reframe the debate and push for smart public policy that reflects the realities of homeless people’s experiences. Our challenge is to raise the level of discussion from public outrage over streets filled with sleeping bodies to outrage that we deny people basic rights that guarantee human dignity. As long as we continue to allow basic human necessities to be treated as issues of individual failures or charity, we will continue to see the pain and suffering of homelessness increase, just as we will continue to see local governments use police forces to remove homeless and poor people from public view.
WRAP knows that programs like affordable housing are never given but are struggled for and won by powerful social movements. Our fight for human and civil rights becomes less abstract and overwhelming when we start by identifying local priorities and then make the connections with other communities throughout the region and country.
Over the past two decades, homeless advocacy has happened either through DC-based policy advocates disconnected from grassroots organizing or through grassroots organizing disconnected from national policy. WRAP believes that to build a powerful movement, the national policy agenda must be connected to and driven by grassroots organizing of poor and homeless people.
This means organizing around people and not just issues, and taking the time and effort to build relationships that cross class, race, and religion — relationships that value our mutual humanity, life experience and needs. This is what it takes to build a movement. And a movement is what we need to tear down the walls of neglect and oppression that prevent everyone from having a home.