Saturday, February 10, 2007

Police push homeless tent city out of town

Homeless people who set up a tent city in Olympia, Washington, to protest their plight pulled up stakes under police orders and left their temporary home in a vacant city lot.

The Rev. Arthur Vaeni confirmed the Unitarian Universalist Chutch would give the campers a temporary base. But the entire congregation would have to decide how long they could stay, he said.

"Our sense was that we have a responsibility to serve those who are in dire need," Vaeni said. If police had broken up the tent city and arrested people, it would have been "a real wound to our community," he said.

The city does not allow tents to be used as permanent structures, but courts have allowed churches to house the poor in tents, under freedom-of-religion protections, a city spokeswoman said.

Although the city has appropriated about $800,000 this year for homeless and social services, City Councilman T.J. Johnson said the services provided aren't meeting all the need.

"We do a lot, but what we need is for the federal government to stop wasting money on a war when there are people sleeping in parking lots," Johnson said.

Read the Seattle Times article here.

4 Comments:

At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Poor People's Union said...

POOR PEOPLES UNION DECLARES VICTORY, PREPARES FOR NEXT STAGE

Olympia, Washington – The Poor People’s Union (PPU) won a standoff with city officials last month. Despite ongoing objections, the PPU won the right to reestablish the tent city, Camp Quixote, on a new site. According to one of the organizers of Camp Quixote, Rob Richards, “This is a major victory. We get to stay together. We get a place for now, and dialogue has been opened for a permanent site. We developed leadership, organization, and a plan. Now we’re getting ready for what comes next.”

On February 1st, the day that the City of Olympia banned sitting, panhandling or performing on public sidewalks, the PPU set up a tent city in downtown Olympia. Over the next seven days, the encampment grew to 50 people with 25 tents, a kitchen, portable toilet and communal hall. Throughout that time, residents organized trash brigades to clean up the neighborhood, made decisions collectively, and banned drugs and alcohol. Support came from throughout Olympia.

During the standoff, as poor people organized to demand their rights, local government and police threatened to destroy what was built. According to a PPU press release, “Our crime is acting independently and effectively, being organized, and caring for all the people of this community especially each other -— those without permanent shelter.” Tim, Organizer with the PPU, emphasized the importance of the tent city, “This is about basic human rights. This is like the civil rights movement for poor people. People are isolated out in the woods —- out of sight, out of mind. But here together we’re safe and able to accomplish a lot.”

On February 6th, the city manager and police chief entered the camp and gave a verbal order to disperse. At the City Council meeting that night, City officials made it clear that they were not going to change their minds: the camp had to go and could not be set up anywhere else. The City wanted the camp community to simply scatter and disappear.

The day after the city council meeting, Carol Harmon, a PPU member, was arrested on a five-year-old warrant after she vocally challenged the city council about their threats to shut down Camp Quixote, “I'm one of the homeless people you're trying to run out of town, but I'm not going anywhere."

City officials, concerned primarily with development and tourism, sought to defend property over people. The city government showed little concern for poor people who have a right to housing. On February 8, the City distributed fliers: on one side it promised the arrest of Camp Quixote residents and on the other listed phone numbers for shelters. Many at the camp felt insulted and suggested that the numbers were a PR gesture. According to Kandace Jones, an organizer with the PPU, “They gave us a bunch of numbers for referral services. Most of the numbers are for places that don’t have any available space and some of the numbers don’t even work. They don’t care about us.”

She when on to say, “The goals of Camp Quixote are to get people and the City to realize that there is no option left for us. We want land that's ours, that we can build on, that the people can run. Real democracy -— not this sham and police threats. We are people.”

Jesse Shultz, a PPU member, explained further, “We have millions living on the streets around this country. We have rights. We are here to demand our rights: the right to freedom of assembly, to housing and to live. If you structure society in this way, you should expect [tent cities] like ours.”

The American people have to demand that this country provide adequate housing for all people -— but the fight is also bigger. Homelessness in this system is incurable. It results from the elimination of jobs by corporations looking for the cheapest labor and using automated production that eliminates the need for workers. The fight for housing is an important part of building a movement for a new society based on human need, not private property and corporate profit.

 
At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to further that since the tent demestraition thier been a alert ness to the problem to who has a home and who does not have one.And olympia know s that we the people of olympia and thurston need a fordable housing

 
At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey city councel We the people of olympia and thurston need a fordable housing . finally this promlem was exposed and you butch of ?to you who do you serv bob dylan has a song you will serve some. This may be the devil or this may be the lord you got to serve some one.

 
At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Hubert said...

It can't work as a matter of fact, that's what I suppose.
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