Monday, May 9, 2011

A NEW, "REVOLUTIONARY" WAY OF ENDING HOMELESSNESS

A NEW, "REVOLUTIONARY" WAY OF ENDING HOMELESSNESS

Some of the shelters in Washington, DC are threatened with closure in less than a year. The "Doom's Day" Date is April 1st, 2012. This is nothing new. We've been here before. But it's definitely much worse this time around. When the Randall Shelter was closed the 801 East Shelter was opened as a replacement. (I believe it was in early 2005, the year I moved to DC and a year before I became a homeless advocate.) When the DC Village Family Shelter was closed in October of 2007, families were placed in a housing program (though I've been told unofficially that some have since been ejected from the program and are sleeping in cars with their little ones). When Franklin School Shelter was closed, the Permanent Supportive Housing program was initiated and has since housed at least 1,200 people. But now the conmversation is about closing several shelters which hold at least 1,300 homeless people total. Programs that provide cash assistance or create affordable housing are being partially or completely defunded. And families which small children -- even newborns -- are presently being denied shelter. While budget cuts and shelters are nothing new, the magnitude of the crisis is.

It is for this reason that various homeless advocates as well as those who advocate for the creation of affordable housing and for the rights and needs of the poor have begun to come out in force against the DC Council so as to reverse the council's plans to drastically cut the Fiscal Year 2012 budget for Human Services -- cuts that would gravely hurt the poor community of our nation's capital. The homeless of DC have begun a coalition that has met every week since April 26th, 2011. (For now, we've decided to meet every Monday at 1 PM in the basement of CCNV. ALL ARE WELCOME.) We just had our third weekly meeting.

We have begun to make strides in our fight to preserve social services in the District. Several homeless and formerly-homeless people did outreach to various shelters to inform others in their community of the impending cuts to Human Services and the hurt that it would inflict on the city's neediest people. At least 2 dozen homeless people attended the Human Services Budget Hearing on May 6th and serveral testified in front of Councilman Jim Graham who has oversight of Human Services.

Many of the homeless people that I speak to as we traverse the city with our message are saying the same things without prior knowledge of my positions or of what other homeless people whom we've spoken to have said:

1 -- The Democrats are acting like Republicans (DINOs -- Democrats In Name Only).
2 -- Mayor Gray, whom we thought would be BETTER THAN Adrian Fenty is just an extension of Fenty.
3 -- When the shelters are closed on April 1st, 2012, there will be more crime and bad behavior in Downtown as the needy go into "survival mode".
4 -- What the city saves in Human Services will be lost on law enforcement and jail.
5 -- This is an elaborate plan to push the poor out of town.

(The aforementioned statements qualify the homeless of DC as "objective Revolutionaries" who need only to be told that there is a name for how they think and a movement for them to become active members of.)

ADDITIONALLY, there has been some discussion of forming committees and adopting duties:

I, ERIC JONATHAN SHEPTOCK, have assumed the duties of a lead organizer with the implied consent of many others.

Arafa Speaks has offered to serve as the temporary secretary.

Reka "Redz" has offered to become the permanent secretary.

The committees that the group has considered forming include:

1 -- a planning committee: would organize all other committees, receive reports from them, call meetings, oversee the setting of long- and short-term goals and organize our overall efforts across the city.

2 -- a homeless/poor outreach committee: would do outreach to sheltered and unsheltered homeless people as well as the housed poor, inform those who'll be affected of the developing crisis, invite them to meetings and other events that interest them and organize them for direct action.

3 -- a church/business/public outreach committee: would reach out to those in DC (and possibly surrounding areas) who are neither homeless nor members of DC Government but who might have some vested interest in seeing that the homeless not be forced into the streets and would do public education on the issues of poverty and homelessness (as many people are ill-informed concerning the realitiers of poverty and homelessness).

4 -- a media/social networking committee: would do outreach to media in order to shed more light on our issue and would do public education through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

5 -- a political action committee: would follow political developments that affect the poor and homeless, inform the full group of those developments and their impact on the poor and homeless and would plan actions for addressing the needs of the poor and homeless from a political prospective.

NOTE: This list is only tentative and is subject to change after consideration by the full group.

During today's meeting, several people committed to performing different tasks which include:

Reaching out to the media,
-- (During the meeting, a man called and arranged for me to speak on WPFW 89.3 FM at 9:40 AM on wednesday, May 11th.) --

Reaching out to several churches,
Posting information at several shelters,
setting up an information board at CCNV whereby to keep residents informed on the progress of our fight, speaking to DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton and
Performing the duties of secretary.

That said, we're just getting started and I, for one, am in it to win it. But what I find to be significant is the analysis that many homeless people have of the economic downturn and the way in which the budget crisis is being handled. I see room to begin to teach them some of my Marxist views about how capitalism is the problem behind the problem.

Within my Marxist study group, we often speak of the "deepening crisis of Capitalism" and how that the democrats and Republicans are both working for a capitalist establishment. We talk about how that each successive administration is an extension of the previous one insomuch as they tout the same line about budget problems and they continue to cut budgets to much-need social programs just like their predecessors. My Marxist friends and I speak of how Capitalism is in its final throes, how that the crisis is deepening irreversibly, how that each new administration is inheriting the problems left by others and how that these problems won't be resolved within the capitalist system. The homeless seem to know this, if only vaguely at the moment. It is bound to become clearer as time goes on. What's more is that some of them have begun to agree with me about the need for revolution, while others have mentioned the idea without any coaching from me. That said, the magnitude of the problem is not the only thing that is new. People are willing to try new ways of solving problems -- even REVOLUTION.


Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Cell phone: (240) 305-5255
425 2nd St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2003
www.youtube.com/user/EricSheptock

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