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‘House Keys Not Handcuffs’: Homeless families denied a home even for their convergence

December 22, 2009

Part 1: ‘Homelessness Ends With a Home’

Convergence planned for Wednesday, Jan. 20, 11 a.m., at Federal Building, Seventh and Mission, San Francisco, then plans dashed – see Part 2 below

Forty-one years ago, in 1968, thousands came from all over the country to Washington, D.C., for the Poor People’s Campaign. It was the last movement organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., just before his assassination. Rev. King had the vision to bring together poor people of all races to make visible the plight of poverty. It was not to be a sit-it, but a live-in. They built “Resurrection City” on the mall on Washington, stayed in their plywood lean-tos in what looked like a refugee camp through 40 days of rain and the assassination of their ally, Robert Kennedy, lobbied Congress every day, were watched by as many police as there were demonstrators and finally watched in despair as government bulldozers destroyed it all. The legacy of this city’s rise and fall lives today. Watch the videos below. - Photo: Jill Freedman
POOR News Network – Communities from up and down the West Coast will converge in San Francisco to demonstrate our immense energy and BE THE CHANGE this administration needs to do what is right. Shoulder to shoulder, we will take the necessary steps to win affordable housing and civil rights for everyone! For two days we will organize, dance, evoke the vision and spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and grow the movement for social justice.

Jan. 20, 2010, marks the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration. He came to power through a powerful grassroots campaign movement. That movement – driven by hope and change – has foundered on business as usual in D.C.

We do know that change can come quick, just look at the $700 billion of taxpayer’s dollars that went to bail out Wall Street. What did those most in need get? $1.5 billion in Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing funds! The change barometer reads: little to no change.

Organize or die!

What are the consequences of these priorities? 39.8 million people living below the poverty line, including 17 million people in “deep poverty.” a 26-year high unemployment rate, 46.3 million uninsured people and 49 million people who face food insecurity. Homelessness is up 12 percent in cities across the country.

In response to this growing crisis, many local governments and business improvement districts have created programs that force growing numbers of poor people out of gentrifying or neglected neighborhoods and into jails.

From anti-homeless loitering, sitting and sleeping laws to immigration checks at health programs and public schools to arrest histories in public housing and employment, we must stop this pattern of oppression and demand our human rights. It’s quite simple: Organize or die!

Part 2: Homeless protest permit revoked from feds: NO RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE AT THE NEW FEDERAL BUILDING

In 1968, Martin Luther King and SCLC organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C., demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States. King crisscrossed the country to assemble “a multiracial army of the poor” that would descend on Washington – engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be – until Congress enacted a poor people’s bill of rights. King’s economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America’s cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its “hostility to the poor” – appropriating “military funds with alacrity and generosity,” but providing “poverty funds with miserliness.” His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of racism, poverty, militarism and materialism, and that “reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”
San Francisco – A homeless organization has been denied a previously approved permit to gather – why? on the grounds that the rally will be too large. Is this a re-run of the rise and fall of the Poor People’s Campaign’s Resurrection City on the Washington Mall in 1968?

People who are homeless, their supporters and service providers planned to rally on Jan. 20, 2010, for an event entitled “Homelessness Ends With a Home” at the plaza in the new federal building at Mission and Seventh. The rally is timed to correspond with the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of Barack Obama, in a plea to make affordable housing for poor people the top priority of his administration.

The General Services Administration (GSA) suddenly revoked a previously approved permit to Western Regional Advocacy Project for homeless organizations from throughout the Western United States to assemble in the public square on the corner of Mission and Seventh Street. According to the denial letter from the GSA, the largest assembly approved to date was for fewer than 200 people.

The rally is timed to correspond with the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of Barack Obama, in a plea to make affordable housing for poor people the top priority of his administration.

Adding insult to injury, the GSA told organizers they could not appeal because their notice of intent to appeal was received within six instead of five days following the unorthodox denial.

An expected crowd of 1,500 people now find themselves without a home for the Jan. 20 rally. Notwithstanding the GSA’s statement that it is untimely, advocates plan to continue to appeal this denial.

“We outlined exactly what we planned to do and how many people would be attending. Now the feds shut us down. The federal government’s message is that they don’t want to hear from homeless people if there are too many of them,” according to Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project.

According to free speech advocate boona cheema, “The message is dreadful. The federal government is refusing assemblies over 200 people. Traditionally, areas around public buildings are the most important for the exercise of free speech and the right to assemble. Restrictions placed on assemblies in this area are highly suspect, must be content neutral and should receive the highest level scrutiny. The denial of ‘Homelessness Ends With a Home’ threatens free speech for all, and we plan to fight this denial.”

Western Regional Advocacy Project exists to expose and eliminate the root causes of civil and human rights abuse of people experiencing poverty and homelessness in our communities. For more information, visit www/ or contact Paul Boden,, or Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director, Coalition on Homelessness, 468 Turk St., San Francisco CA 94102, (415) 346-3740, ext. 306,,

To learn more about the Poor People’s Campaign and Resurrection City, watch “The Legacy of Resurrection City” and “Documenting Resurrection City: Jill Freedman.”

4 thoughts on “‘House Keys Not Handcuffs’: Homeless families denied a home even for their convergence

  1. Naomi Hyatt

    What do I do to help my son? He lives under the I-80 bridge near Elkhorn Blvd. in the Sacramento area. He is hungry and wants a way out but he just doesn’t know what to do and I can’t even think what to tell him. He has some mental issues. He is severely bi-polar with psychotic paranoia. He has never held down a job. He is 28 years old. He has had maybe 4 jobs in his life but can’t handle the pressure of working at a public job. He is NOT lazy. He is the hardest worker I have ever seen. He works all the time for other homeless people, helping to build shelters. He even does yard work for people. He will see some older person mowing the yard and he will finish the job for them. He was always my hardest working kid. He just doesn’t do well with a public job. He freaks out, thinking that he is going to get fired or that other employees are out to get him. He even thinks the cops and the FBI are watching him. He moves his campsite frequently, because he is sure that they will want to kill him. The thing is, he is not on any government assistance or on any medications. He doesn’t understand how to even get help for himself. He lives on squirels and has admited that he ate a stray cats. He had to eat something. When you are hungry enough, you do what you do. I found your site when I was searching for what to do to help him. My son needs help and I don’t know who or where to call. Do you?

  2. Chretien

    You should still go ahead with your rally. You may not have the right to converge on the Square. Yet you still have the right to assemble. Every month on the last Friday or whatever. The City is besieged by the joke called “Crucial Mass” If people on bikes have the right to block traffic and cause by everyone’s account mass chaos. A peaceful rally to end Homelessness can’t lose. Really you can’t lose.


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