Summary of WRAP Member Groups’ and Allies Responses to Covid-19 Pandemic

Posted on April 21, 2020 by Jonathan

The neoliberal, profit-focused policies that have been the go-to in this country for 37 years are now deadlier than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic exposes for all to see the truths that WRAP and WRAP member groups have been working to expose for years: that housing, criminal justice, social safety net, healthcare, and other systems are fundamentally not set up to support poor and homeless people. Our demands, goals, and organizing work for Sleep Not Sweeps, House Keys Not Handcuffs leading up to this moment could not be more relevant.
WRAP and WRAP members are using this moment to push for an end to criminalization and housing for all. In the near-absence of charity and government support during Covid-19, our members have shifted to more of a mutual-aid-for-survival model than before. Providing mutual aid also serves as a crucial organizing tool, allowing our groups to keep a close pulse on the streets, share up-to-date information, utilize artwork in communications, and organize more and more people into our movement. Here is a summary of what is happening with WRAP member groups:
· San Francisco – Coalition on Homelessness (COH): Providing tents and pushing for hotels. Over the last three weeks, COH has distributed more than 1,000 tents to unhoused people, and led a campaign calling for hotel rooms for all unhoused people who need and want one—including through a raucous ‘car blockade’ protest. COH also runs a street newspaper called Street Sheet. When those staying in a shelter first tested positive for Covid-19 last week, Street Sheet broke a key story revealing the city’s plans to move hundreds of homeless people onto floor mats in a congregate setting in the Moscone Convention Center; the story prompted Mayor Breed to backtrack and re-consider other options, including hotel rooms. Officials will vote Tuesday on next steps.
· Denver – Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL): Pursuing litigation to mandate that existing housing be opened because of Covid-19 State of Emergency. In the first week of April, DHOL filed a Writ of Mandamus in the courts aiming to get the State of Colorado and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to do their job: Protect the people of Colorado in this health crisis by mandating existing empty housing be opened for Coloradans living in shelters and on streets.· Los Angeles – Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN): Providing lifesaving hygiene supplies and ensuring enforcement of settlement protecting homeless people on Skid Row. LACAN created a prototype handwashing station that is now being replicated in other cities; unhoused people and housed neighbors are working together to keep them filled and in working order. LACAN is also moving to intervene in a lawsuit, through which land owners (?) are attempting to intervene in the property rights of homeless people.

· Portland – Right 2 Survive (R2S): Leading mutual aid efforts on the streets to provide lifesaving provisions. R2S has a network of people creating and distributing handwashing stations, food, “Surviving Covid” information pamphlets, hand sanitizer, and more, including in East Portland where there are nearly no government or non-profit services. There is an urgent need for toilet facilities; the group is currently fundraising and working to get toilets up and running for those who need them. R2S is also actively tracking city sweeps policies and advocating for a complete end to sweeps, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

· Portland – Sisters of the Road: Steering rapid creation of organized encampments for people to safely shelter in place in inner SE and downtown Portland; providing food for those on the streets with dignity and love.

· Portland: The Portland crew would like to thank all the volunteers making hand-washing station tables, Dr. Bronner’s, Alberta Cooperative Grocer and Hankins Hardware for their donations and support! Support these small businesses who help our community.

· Sacramento – Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (SHOC): California Statewide Campaign A statewide campaign called #NoVacancy launched in California with a press conference with participation from WRAP member organizations and allies such as LA CAN, East Oakland Collective, The Village In Oakland, Love And Justice In The Streets, Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee, and Coalition on Homelessness. Testimonials from the press conference include the lack of hygiene options with the closure of businesses; difficulties being placed in a hotel room; the bidding process, high bar for entering, and the overemphasis on service programs slowing the process of getting a hotel room; and FEMA trailers placed outside of hotels that have been sitting empty since January.

· Oakland –   The Village in Oakland #feedthepeople, East Oakland Collective continues their tireless survival work to distribute food and supplies to unhoused and poor residents. They have also been privately sheltering an elder in a hotel room. Poor Magazine and Youth Poverty Skolaz are distributing masks, gloves, TP, and healthy, hot food every Tues, Thurs, and Fri to no-income, indigenous housed and houseless residents.

· Berkeley – Where Do We Go?: (WDWG) In Berkeley, Where Do We Go? has been doing a huge amount of trash cleanup around the Gilman Street overpass. Berkeley City Council failed to pass an emergency resolution banning sweeps and tows at the Tuesday city council meeting.



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