Terese Howard helped form both Denver Homeless Out loud (DHOL) and Housekeys Action Network Denver (HAND) and lives in Denver with her family and community of powerful organizers.
How and why did DHOL/HAND became a member at WRAP? What were the needs?
When we first were starting up on DHOL we did a survey of 512 houseless people about the effect of the camping ban. We wanted to go to the next level to fight to end the ban and other laws that criminalize houseless people, but looking at legislation like the homeless bill of rights in Road Island we could tell it would not cut it. Then we met Paul! We learned there were other bad ass groups who wanted more than watered down legislation too and who were driven by direction from the streets! We badly needed the legal assistance in writing the Right to Rest, the cross state solidarity, the shared grounding in street outreach, and the overall support WRAP provides. Now as HAND we continue to depend on the support of WRAP in our housing research and countless other ways.
What does DHOL/HAND do every day?
As DHOL we organized on the streets fighting the criminalization of survival through direct action, legislation, litigation and more. Now as HAND we continue that fight but also focus on the fight for housing. We do this every day by connecting on the streets, shelters, hotels, and anywhere houseless people are at – ensuring our fight is directed by houseless people and building the movement for the housing we need. We know we cannot sit back and wait for the powers that be to create the housing we need so we work to make that change.
What’s needed next – how do we push forward together given that fascism and criminalization are worse than ever?
We need the people power to make criminalization an untenable option – fences torn down the day they are put up, houseless people refusing to move and police giving up, legislators ready to repeal these laws facing endless lawsuits, etc. We need a nationwide demand for public housing for all, not tokin private-public partnerships housing that is never going to meet the need. We push forward together by staying committed to the direction of houseless people, by creating the plans for what is needed, by sharing our local fights and working toward national fights with our voices loud and clear.
What is the role/expertise WRAP plays in this moment after 40 years of modern-day houselessness and growing criminalization?
WRAP has held down an organizing model that ensures the work they do is driven by what is coming from the streets as member groups are on the streets every day. Because of this WRAP pushes the campaigns for rights and housing that the well-funded national homeless groups who are not connected to the base on the streets will never push. WRAP is not afraid to name when trends like sanctioned encampments are furthering the criminalization of our community, or that “vouchers for all” campaigns do not equate to housing for all, or that we still need the Right to Rest even after being killed in the legislator at least 12 times in 3 states. WRAP’s connection to the history of houselessness is critical as our cities and nation continually seem to think they are doing something new, but repeat an endless cycle of treating homelessness as an individual problem and never bringing back public housing at the scale of the need. WRAP plays a vital role in connecting the local houseless fights and doing the labor necessary to fight together for our survival.
Paul has also been doing this for 40 years – Want to send a love message to him about his impact on your work – and/or about his impact overall?
Paul has shown what it means to be a real laborer, not a leader, for the community movement. Paul’s commitment to doing the work needed as directed by the affected community is an example we all should learn from. He lives the fight – it is not a job for him. On top of his dedication to the work, there is no one else who knows the history of houselessness and housing in America better than Paul. And knows it from direct experience, not just reading a history book – he is the history.