Houseless political representation and organizations

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this is part of the article collection Village Buildings.

 

Homeless Unions 

 

Homeless Commissions (LA, etc) 

 

 

"At Large Neighborhood Association" (ALNA) 

[4 Dec 2019]

"I've been reading, researching, and book-searching along various threads relating to the Village Buildings community book project. Currently reading Autonomous City, a 2017 history/study of urban squatting in US & Europe; and before that, a 1999 book No Trespassing: Squatting, Rent Strikes, and Land Struggles Worldwide.

"My entry point there was thinking about how direct action and types of squatting/occupation have played a significant role in a good number of the village projects I'm studying -- such as Dome Village in '90s-'00s LA, and Dignity Village in Portland for which Dome Village was a key inspiration; and Right 2 Dream Too and even recently Kenton Women's Village, both also in Portland. Also, I've been interested for some years in developing-world squatter and informal settlements, was involved in NYC with the squat-originated community center ABC No Rio on the Lower East Side, etc. 

"This recent reading has given me more perspective about how large these phenomena are, and especially how significant they've been in the US and UK, from the patterns of land-claiming / occupation / squatting during US western frontier expansion, to scale of post-WWII and 1960s-on squatting across UK and in London & NY. 

"Thinking about this helped suggest an idea which I posted in several pieces on thread in Portland Homeless facebook group earlier today, proposing an 'At Large Neighborhood Association' to represent unhoused residents of Portland in the way that Neighborhood Association do the housed. With one purpose being, to build political power towards ends such as demanding use of public lands for shelter/housing, as Dignity Village and its community of supporters successfully did ca.2001. 
 

 

Posted to Portland Homeless group on Facebook 
in comments on post: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pdxhomeless/permalink/1196246097238352/
"For unhoused representation, how about something like an At Large Neighborhood Association, ALNA -- or Neighborhood At Large Assocation, NALA =- or Unhoused Neighbor Association, UNA, to supplement Portland's other NAs? Having local civic bodies based on where one is housed rather leaves out those not housed, right?

"Incidentally, the 94 current neighborhood associations each represent on average about 7,000 residents, and the 2019 Point-in-Time count for Multomah County found 4,015 people who met HUD’s definition of homelessness. So an ALNA / NALA might be roughly on the same scale as NA in numbers of people.

"Yes there are organizations that currently represent the homeless from one standpoint or area or another. This might differ by
    a) having a defined mission to democratically represent the expressed interests of unhoused people across the city, analogous to that of existing neighborhood associations for specific areas; and
    b) being recognized and supported and evaluated by the city for this purpose, as NAs are. The idea being that unhoused people are now effectively unrepresented in this system, but they are residents of the city and so should have representation.
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly's initiative to reorganize the Neighborhood Associations system may, of course, point in a similar direction by recognizing groups other than the NAs.

How might an ALNA be run? Probably with an office somewhere central, leadership positions elected from within group as with NAs, some support staff, meetings. Since it would be city-wide, and represent people of often limited mobility, I think it would be important to develop ways beyond physical meetings for people to participate fully. For example, via phone, text messages, smartphone, online platform, mail, local gatherings to videoconference into meeting, etc.  Perhaps the head of or representative of ALNA could have a standing agenda item at City Council meetings to give updates and input from the unhoused community.

"Perhaps the ALNA could be given certain slightly different land-use[-for-the-landless] roles, such as:

  1. a voice on any homeless-related use (shelter, supportive housing, village) proposed citywide;
  2. advance notification of, right to contest/negotiate, and involvement in any 'sweeps', as you suggest.
  3. Identifying, selecting, requesting use of, and reclaiming public properties for use as safe parking, transitional village, or long-term village use.
  4. Organizational, political, & legal support for dedication of available public land, or leasing of private land, for shelter and rehousing use."
     

References 

Sparks, Tony. "Citizens without property: Informality and political agency in a Seattle, Washington homeless encampment." Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. September 20, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518X16665360
from Abstract:
"This article attempts to broaden and deepen the conversation on informal dwellings in the US by focusing on the tent encampment as a site of creative political agency and experimentation. Drawing upon a body of work referred to by some as “subaltern urbanism”, I examine how everyday practices of camp management produce localized forms of citizenship and governmentality through which “homeless” residents resist stereotypes of pathology and dependence, reclaim their rational autonomy, and recast deviance as negotiable difference in the production of governmental knowledge. Consideration of these practices, I argue, opens up the possibility of a of a view of encampments that foregrounds the agency of the homeless in the production of new political spaces and subjectivities."