Homeless Camp out at Rose Parade for right 2 survive
Right 2 Survive put out a call to pitch a tent in downtown Portland to support the rights of the homeless to survive. This peaceful direct action raised awareness that there are not enough shelters or resources for the homeless. On any given day, there are 1,500 people sleeping in the streets, with nowhere to go, but city laws forbid them to set up tents. For 1 day only before the Rose Parade, the city allows everyone to camp out. For homeless activists, it's unfair that people are allowed to camp out for fun, but not for survival.
For most people, being homeless is one of their biggest fears. Yet millions of Americans have experienced homelessness. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty reported in 2007 that about 3.5 million people have experienced being homeless, 1.5 million of them children.
Homelessness is on the rise, as thousands of Americans have lost their housing and jobs in recent years. Often, the authorities respond, not with more support, but with criminalizing and increasing assaults on the homeless people, and cuts on social programs that provide them with support. In Portland, there are about 1,500 people sleeping in the streets on a given day. There are just not enough shelters and support for them.
To call attention to their plight, Right2Survive, a group of 9 people who are homeless, formerly homeless and allies, put out a call to folks to pitch a tent in downtown Portland on June 10th. Soon after 10 AM, about 50 homeless and supporters, set up camp on SW 4th Avenue and Washington. In no time, tents were erected on several city blocks. A huge sign stated the purpose of this action: Legal Camping Now; Land, Not Jail. A table with coffee, water, soft drinks and food was set up, and all day long, many homeless and non-homeless people stopped by and were fed. We were treated to fresh fruit, sandwiches, burritoes, cookies, donuts, chocolate cake and hot soup, thanks to all who cooked and/or donated food! Many curious people talked to us, and were given leaflets explaining the purpose of Right 2 Survive. A couple of police came and tried to evict us, but we stood our ground. Shortly, the city attorney appeared, but she too left, since for once, the "law" was on our side.
Ibrahim Mubarak is a member of Right2Survive, and one of the founders of Dignity Village. He informed me that the goal of this peaceful direct action was to protest against the city's anti-camping law, which makes camping illegal for homeless folks. Yet the city allows camping for all people for 1 day before the Rose Parade. "The city allows people to camp out for fun, but not for survival," he said. He added that the homeless are vulnerable to assault, especially women. One of the homeless' biggest complaints and fear is assault from the police. Many have told me that the cops often harass them at night, waking them up, searching their tents, and throwing away their only belongings, their sleeping bags, tents, papers, and things they value. Ibrahim said that people want to camp together, not only for comraderie, but for protection against violence and rape.
Leo Rhodes, a Street Roots poet and board member, said one of the biggest obstacles the homeless confront is the negative stereotypes that the media perpetrate. "Many of us have jobs, and are not drug addicts or have mental problems," he said. "Every March 31st, many shelters are closed because they think that the homeless won't die in the summer. We've tried to meet with city officials, but their solution is "Out of sight, out of mind." They want to sweep the homeless off the streets, because we're an "eyesore," but there's nowhere for us to go. We're here today to let everyone know that we're human beings too, and we need shelter."
The media showed up, including FOX. They interviewed Ibrahim, Leo and many others.
The next day, hundreds of people, who showed up for the Rose Parade, became informed of the Right 2 Survive camping. They saw the signs, including "100,000 Homeless Vets on the streets every night" when Ibrahim and others walked up several city blocks carrying the signs. When the Oregon National Guard float passed by, Ibrahim walked next to them, carrying a sign: "Support the troops? Give them homes," and "Beds, not bombs. 100,000 homeless vets."
Several homeless activists came down from Seattle to support this action. They talked about the growing tent cities in Seattle, Nickelsville (named after the scumbag mayor), Tent City 2 and 3. It's good to see such solidarity among the homeless and their allies. This was a very successful direct action, and more actions are planned in the future, because homelessness is not an "eyesore" that can be swept out of sight. It's a growing problem that more and more people will experience as the economy, our civil rights and our country are being destroyed by rapacious corporate power and a government that serves its interests, instead of the people's.
For more information, go to: link to right2survive.wordpress.com
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