Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Homeless in America and the Occupy Movement

Some have come to occupy for political reasons. Others have been occupying most of their lives. Since the Occupy movement began it has become increasingly apparent that one of the biggest problems in America would take center stage: homelessness. It was inevitable that the two groups of occupiers would influence each other and change the nature of the movement. From LA to New York the homeless have found a community in local occupations. However, what happens to the homeless community once initial encampments are dissolved?

Once an eviction notice was released for Occupy Philly to vacate Dilworth Plaza, our original encampment, the previously homeless population started to organize their own community. A sizable contingent of tents and resources were transferred from our original encampment to a site much farther north and out of the way. This has led to two questions: 1) what is the nature of this Occupy annex and 2) how do we continue to support them?

The original Dilworth encampment accomplished a goal it didn’t even intend: it empowered the disenfranchised of America to work together to build an infrastructure for themselves. Our working group and general assembly structure now functions as a model for this 21st century Hooverville. They have taken donated materials such as tents, tables, and pallets to assemble their own occupation. In addition to their structural emulations they also have their own councils and caucuses. They have empowered themselves with a sense of purpose, cooperation, and community, that has been absent from their normal day-to-day for years, independent of the primarily political participants of OP.

Philosophically, this raises interesting and important question: if and/or how does the centralized occupation continue to support this expansion. The movement as whole was not intended as a direct action against homelessness. It has however become a possible champion of the cause. So how do we allocate resources in a way that supports the movement as a whole and yet is fair in its donations to the sustainability of tent city annexes? We need to very concretely create a structured plan of allocations including members of both the political off-siters and the citizens of the new tent city which includes a code of conduct, stipulations of support from both sides, and a third party check and balance for accountability and transparency.

Occupy 2.0 is about to begin but we cannot leave troops in the trenches. This expansion is a victory for our movement. The hardest hit of the victims we represent have empowered themselves to create their own community. As we take the battle to the top 1% we must not leave any of the 99% behind. As the old saying goes: united we will stand but divided we will fall.