Yesterday, noted writer Barbara Ehrenreich wrote this piece for Mother Jones about the relationship between the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and homelessness.
She concludes, “In Portland, Austin, and Philadelphia, the Occupy Wall Street movement is taking up the cause of the homeless as its own, which of course it is. Homelessness is not a side issue unconnected to plutocracy and greed. It’s where we’re all eventually headed—the 99 percent, or at least the 70 percent, of us, every debt-loaded college grad, out-of-work school teacher, and impoverished senior—unless this revolution succeeds.”
In the piece, she writes at length about the challenges that homeless people face – now being discovered, she says, by the Occupiers: the need for food, security, sleep, and a restroom. She references anecdotes from a report, called “Criminalizing Crisis” from our friends at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which tell the tales of homeless people trying vainly to receive basic services.
As Ehrenreich sees it, much of the United States has outlawed explicit poverty. From urination in public to loitering to tent cities, Ehrenreich recounts the ways that homeless people are denied not only access to services but the right to exist without harassment.
Noticeably absent in the piece (and arguably in the OWS movement), however, was any discussion about solutions. Ehrenreich chides, while discussing the many laws that implicitly outlaw homelessness, “It should be noted, though, that there are no laws requiring cities to provide food, shelter, or restrooms for their indigent citizens.” While food, shelter, and restrooms are important, the solution to homelessness starts with housing. Should Occupiers take up the issue of homelessness, they should be aware that food and shelter are not the solutions necessary to end homelessness; it’s housing.
Do you agree with Ehrenreich? Is homelessness an OWS issue? And is there a relationship between the OWS cause and homelessness? Have you seen the two parties overlap? Tell us what’s happening in your town by leaving a comment or hitting us up on Facebook or Twitter.