CAG Travels to Albany with the Poor People’s Campaign

On Monday, 11 members of the Coalition’s Client Advisory Group (CAG) and Advocacy staff traveled to Albany to amplify the message that housing is a human right. CAG members are current or former homeless shelter residents who meet weekly at the Coalition’s office to organize for improved conditions in the NYC shelter system and to advocate for large-scale solutions to homelessness, such as the urgent need for more affordable housing. The CAG members participated in a direct action in Albany with the Poor People’s Campaign, a nationwide movement to demand a better society by challenging the injustices of systemic racism, poverty and inequality, ecological devastation, and the war economy and militarism. For the past five weeks, activists and faith leaders around the country have been convening in state capitals to call for change. This week’s theme was “Everybody’s Got the Right To Live: Education, Living Wages, Jobs, Income, Housing.” CAG member M.A. Dennis spoke to the large crowd on the steps of the Legislative Office Building about how dehumanizing homelessness is – and why we need to recognize that housing is a fundamental human right. Read and watch his stirring speech:

 

The Declaration of Independence states:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”

And when I contrast my lengthy length of stay in the New York City shelter system with the Declaration of Independence’s creed, it is clear to see that housing is a human right.

Housing is a human right because there is no LIFE in the shelter system. Bounce, Shorty, Mustafa, Khan, Jimmy, the new Spanish guy on the third floor, Juan, and the anonymous body bag I saw them throw inside the Medical Examiner’s van: Those are all of the individuals that died around me while I was homeless.

Housing is a human right because there is no LIBERTY in the shelter system. Do you have any idea how dehumanizing it is to have a 79-cent bag of peanut M&Ms that you purchased on sale from Duane Reade with your last dollar, confiscated by the security guard at the shelter’s entrance checkpoint? Just about every place in New York has Wi-Fi because they know everyone has a cellphone, tablet, or laptop; yet, shelters make you feel like a second-class citizen by denying you the liberty to possess the electronic devices one needs to stay connected to family, work, and society.

Housing is a human right because there is no HAPPINESS in the homeless shelter. There’s nothing happy about seeing feces, dirty needles, or worse on the floor almost everyday. There’s nothing happy about playing Food Poisoning Roulette each time you take a chance on visiting the cafeteria. There’s nothing happy about having your underwear stolen, before you get a chance to wash them. There’s nothing happy about a guy coming into my room and threatening me with a razor blade because I didn’t give him 50 cents for a cup of coffee. These are a few reasons why some would rather take their chances living on the street – they feel the odds of survival are much better.

And that’s why I’m so happy to now be living in my own apartment thanks to a rental assistance program voucher provided by NYC, and the social service organizations that advocate for landlords to take these vouchers. I want the others, left behind and still suffering in homeless shelters, to also attain this happiness. Because again, there is no happiness, nor liberty or life, in being homeless.

Housing is a human right!

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