Jerry Jones the director of the National Coalition for the Homeless has expressed a desire to learn from the LGBT community about how they started out as an obscure minority and yet have won rights in various states and nations over the past 25 years. Jerry has drawn parallels between them and the homeless: Both make up about 1% of the U.S. population and both have been looked down on by the vast majority of people. So, Jerry wants to use the tactics and techniques of the LGBT community to gain similar victories for the homeless. At least that’s what David Pirtle told me. He’s often right.
This morning I was searching for something else when I happened upon the well-written piece below. I interrupted my work in order to peruse it and send it out. It is a must-read.
However, there are at least a couple of things to note. The first is that, while the fight for LGBT rights is a fight for personal freedom that doesn’t require social service funding (unless you include HIV/AIDS treatment), the fight for homeless services puts you smack dab in the middle of the social service arena unless you’re talking about controlling the price of housing so that people can afford it without social service funding. The former just asks the government to let gays marry (a one-day occasion) and then to leave LGBT people alone so they can live as they choose. The latter butts heads with our very form of government and forces society to consider existing fascist overtones as well as a possible change of course to a Socialist or Communist model.
The other consideration is which level of government we go at first. The piece suggests that we should start with state and local governments and that the feds will follow suit. I would say that, while that has worked for LGBT people, it won’t work for homeless advocates. The fight for LGBT rights was not a class war. It didn’t pit one socioeconomic class against another. Their are gays in all economic strata of society. Capitalism targets people first and foremost based on their economic class, thus the name “capitalism”.
We must revisit the era of Martin Luther King, Jr. for an accurate understanding of why I say we must start with the federal government. His WAS a class war. It was the state and local governments that did the most to enforce Jim Crow. It was the feds who did the most to combat and end Jim Crow from a governmental standpoint. Fast-forward to the 80’s and it was the federal government that EVER SO RELUCTANTLY gave us the CCNV Shelter and what has been renamed the HEARTH Act (Homeless Emergency Assistance, Rapid Transition to Housing). The latter success did less to help the poor than the former did; but, it was still a win. That said, we need to inundate the federal government with our demands while also doing what the article says.
I should also add that I believe we should build on what has already been done by MLK, Jr., Mitch Snyder, their followers and others. We should also devise an action that grabs the public’s attention, is the culmination of many good principles and which spurs many other actions like Occupy Wall Street did. Finally, we need to adequately and unambiguously define the human right or other demand that we’re fighting for. The demand for gay rights is pretty straight-forward. The demand that housing be treated as a human right raises more questions than answers.
Because the word “homelessness” conjures up images of lazy people in the minds of many, it is harder to gather support for ending homelessness than it is to gather support for gay rights. NCH has already done a lot to combat stereotypes about the homeless. Through them, I’ve spoken to thousands of people. Let’s remember that government only offers “social(ist)” services in order to avoid a “communist” revolution. They’re giving the loose dollar in one pocket lest we rob and strip them, taking the wallet and the money in the sock.
Here’s the primary difference between Communism and Socialism. Socialism merely seeks to mitigate the negative effects of capitalism by offering support to the poor and dispossessed. Communism in it’s truest form completely opposes capitalism and does away with it.
I believe that the increasing homelessness crisis in our nation’s capital in general and the fight for the future of CCNV in particular will be the impetus for the next class struggle. I’m watching, working and waiting for it. With CCNV’s history and government’s failures since the 1980’s, a fight for the future of its residents is a fight for good principle — first and foremost a fight for effective, compassionate government. Let’s face it: Government is more to blame for the poor and homeless not doing well for themselves than the individuals are. you can’t expect graduate behavior from someone with the equivalent of a third grade education (due to the government disinvesting in education). That’s like asking the blind to lead themselves without any guidance whatsoever — not even a stick.
I’ll stop there for now and let you read the linked in piece…..
–Eric Jonathan Sheptock