Community Summit


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Today, Thursday, is Big Day of Giving!

When non-profits in our regional join together for a collaborative fundraising celebration! Support SHOC’s important work and/or other impactful non-profits in our region! Here’s a link to our page to find out a lot of details about our organization and the work we do:

Support SHOC 

You can also choose other organizations to support

Ready. Set. Give.

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Banish the Unhoused

By Cathleen Williams

The term “banishment” was coined by Pete White of the LA Community Action Network (LACAN) to describe how unhoused people are forcibly relocated even though they have no place to go.   

There used to be talk of housing the homeless in government circles – like the “Housing First” model that promised actual housing as the solution to the crisis. In actual fact, California needs over a million new housing units by 2030 to meet the needs of low-income people, according to the California Housing Partnership. 

Today there are disturbing signs at every level of government that the goal of actually housing people who can’t afford rent has been abandoned, given the scope of the unmet need. This is happening in a political environment where our elected representatives, for the most part, congratulate each other on their token efforts. Looking at this year’s 2 billion spending plan for homeless issues in the state budget, Christopher Martin, policy director for Housing California, pointed out, “There’s not a dime [in the 2022 budget] that is going towards rental assistance or permanent housing.”

Beyond the basic fact that half the spending on homelessness has been committed to law enforcement for years, current proposals and plans in the city of Sacramento exemplify the new, more intensive focus on management and control of unhoused people — rather than funding actual housing.

Daniel Conway, an advisor to a coalition of business and real estate interests in LA, the “LA Alliance for Human Rights,” has filed paperwork to start collecting signatures for a ballot measure, the “Emergency Temporary Shelter and Enforcement Act of 2022.” If passed, the initiative would mandate immediate removal of thousands of people from their informal encampments into newly constructed “emergency shelter space and/or emergency camping space.” The measure is designed to be an end-run around the 2018 federal case, Martin v. Boise, that blocked the arrest of people for the crime of living outside. The court reasoned that punishment of unhoused people who had nowhere to go violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment.  

According to Joe Smith, local activist and advocate, the proposed initiative would require “a big round-up” of thousands of unhoused people. The City Manager would have 60 days to set up facilities for 75% of homeless population – currently as many as 7500 people – then 120 days to get people into shelters and camps through “daily outreach” to “relocate” them from existing “illegal” encampments, prior to “enforcement” of the law. The measure would require massive surveillance of open spaces around Sacramento by law enforcement, not only to enforce the initial thrust but also to prevent new camps from springing up.  Vast city-funded shanty towns would have to be built to contain those who have been forcibly relocated. “What’s it going to look like?” Joe Smith asked during our conversation. “Haiti?”

In August of 2021, the city of Sacramento authorized a “Comprehensive Plan,” which is, according to the Mayor, similar to the proposed initiative, in that it authorizes 20 new sites for homeless shelters, camping areas, and tiny homes, intended serve a total of 2,209 people at any given time as a temporary step toward permanent housing. As of this year, the city has not yet opened most of the new sites, and the numbers of people actually housed as a result of the Plan has been miniscule, given the millions spent. For example, the City’s motel stay program served about 1,000 people – but only 59 moved into permanent housing after leaving.  

As real housing recedes as an official priority, even the programs for sheltering the unhoused are being defunded. Sacramento’s city manager, for example, recently warned that all the city’s homeless programs were in danger of closing down this summer because of lack of funding.

This instability in funding is typical of various relief measures that focus on temporary housing. The last three motels set aside for “emergency” housing, which were funded by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management System) through the County to respond to COVID, will close in March and April, 2022, even though the pandemic still rages through unhoused communities. The County has refused to continue funding these rooms, even though they were reserved for the most vulnerable unhoused people – the old and sick. No proposal or concrete plan for housing the evicted tenants has surfaced.  

In this environment of police management and control, sweeps and clean-ups of encampments have become a daily, savage reality, with six sweeps in the week following February’s homeless count. In January, the city began an assault on cars and RV’s parked on the streets, tagging hundreds for removal, and stripping the occupants of the last stable shelter they possess.

At the state level, Newsom’s budget for 2022 set aside over billion dollars for encampment “clean-ups” – primarily to uproot unhoused residents – in a new program called “Clean California.” The effort is ramping up – Caltrans, the state highway agency, conducted just 19 sweeps clearing homeless encampments in 2020. By October of 2021, Caltrans had destroyed 347 encampments; in 2022, the agency will spend almost $36 million on “clean-ups.” (CalMatters, “Will California’s plan for clearing homeless camps work?” 12/15/21.) Caltrans typically offers nothing in the way of housing or even shelter to displaced residents.

The policy and practice of forcing the relocation of unhoused people to official camps or shelters, and of destroying informal encampments, has, of course, been the main official response to homelessness for the last 20 years or more, and it is logical that these tactics would intensify as the number of people living outside multiplies. Data collection from the unhoused population has also increased.

 In the past year, Sacramento homeless agencies discovered that seventy percent of the people accessing services and housing had never been logged into the federally funded Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). The city moved to set up additional data tool to manage the homeless population, called the “Coordinated Access System,” (also known as the “Coordinated Entry System”) which was recently described as “transformative” in a rhapsodic report to the Sacramento City Council.

According to the UN Reporteur on Extreme Poverty and Civil Rights, Philip Austin, HMIS collects

“extremely personal information like social security numbers, race and ethnicity, prior residency, what services a person has used, health status (including disabilities, pregnancy status, HIV status, mental health), education, employment, and whether they have experienced domestic violence. Anyone using the services is placed into the database, no matter the length of time one was in a program, and the information is kept for years.” (Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Automating Banishment Report.)

As Philip Austin reported in 2017, “many homeless individuals feel deeply ambivalent about the millions of dollars that are being spent on new technology to funnel them to housing that does not exist…Computers and technology cannot solve homelessness.”

Massive data collection enhances police control and management of unhoused populations. This is apparent from the contents of the survey, which asks

“homeless individuals to give up the most intimate details of their lives…including whether they engage in sex work, whether they have ever stolen medications, how often they have been in touch with the police and whether they have ‘planned activities each day other than just surviving that bring [them] happiness and fulfillment.’ Many [unhoused people] feel they are giving up their human right to privacy in return for their human right to housing.”   (UN Report 2017)

The other very real concern is that “…the risk of these databases being accessed by local law enforcement and DHS including ICE,” which is very high. In 2017, LAPD told the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights that CES was ‘a gold mine’ of information that was ‘only one policy decision away’ from police mining.”  (Automating Banishment Report.)

While the overall picture is bleak, the movement for housing as human right is growing more organized, more aware, and more vocal, as it exposes and opposes the dangerous trend toward forced removal of unhoused people to official camps. The situation has become so extreme – so raw and brutal – that the right to housing has been thrust forward not only as the humane solution, but also as the practical solution. Police destruction of encampments brings trauma and incalculable harm to residents – that’s the cruelty of it – but it is also futile and a waste of public resources. 

Josh Barocas, at the University of Colorado, who is quoted in the CalMatters article, put into words what is obvious about the “clean-ups” and massive sweeps being launched at the state and local level: “It’s what I would call social theater,” he said. “It’s showing your neighborhood that you are trying to do something by literally sweeping the problem away….The only way to actually fix this problem is to get at the social and structural issues that are perpetuating poverty, perpetuating homelessness in the city.”

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Empowerment Fair

Unhoused Students Invited To Empowerment Faire at Sac State

At Sacramento State, thousands of students are living in their vehicles, in parking lots and other secluded places, or staying on couches and doubling up, because they do not have and cannot afford housing. Surveys in 2018 by the Chancellor estimated 12% of students – 4200 — have experienced homelessness.

The Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee will be coordinating and assisting the Sacramento State CARES office (Crisis Assistance and Resource Education Support) to present resources for unhoused students at the upcoming Empowerment Faire on April 4, 2022 at 12:45 pm. Many community organizations, including SHOC and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, will be tabling at the Faire to address issues that matter to students, to motivate them to give back to their communities, and to offer them the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge to social justice. The Center for Race, Immigration, and Social Justice (CRISJ) at Sacramento State is sponsoring the event.

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Temporary office hours

The SHOC office will only be open Mondays and Thursdays from 11AM to 12PM. This is only temporary until we get through the Covid surge. Office is mainly used only for Homeward distributors to pick up their papers.

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Fight for Unhoused

The Fight of Unhoused People for The Right to Live Intensifies As the Need for Housing Becomes Undeniable

by Cathleen Williams

The City’s Attack on Unhoused People Living In Vehicles

A devastating attack on the homeless was carried out this December by the destruction of the only homes that many unhoused people have in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of people were impacted after the City “tagged” the vehicles where they were living on Commerce Circle, a secluded side street.  The City towed 18 cars and RV’s that stayed parked because their unhoused owners did not have the money to get them running, even as storms brought freezing rain to the region. Many more vehicles – 3,000 total – have been identified by the City and targeted for towing.  

Sacramento’s “Services Not Sweeps” Coalition, a coalition of activist groups, the Sacramento Homeless Union, and the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee, Democratic Socialists of America, along with others, protested the City’s action at the City Council meeting on December 14.  

“Activists said the crackdown could not come at a worse time, with all shelters full on any given night, temperatures forecast to dip into the 30s this week, rain in the forecast Saturday and Sunday, and no warming centers yet open. Four homeless people in Sacramento County died of hypothermia last winter.

“‘With temperatures dropping they are giving permission to remove the only shelter that families have,’ said Crystal Sanchez, president of the Sacramento Homeless Union. ‘We are getting reports of children as young as 2 months old to seniors losing RVs. The streets of Sacramento are extremely dangerous not only due to the elements of weather but of physical harm.’”(Theresa Clift/Sacramento Bee)

According to Katie Valenzuela, the progressive councilwoman elected last year in a campaign that was responsive to the needs of the working and poor neighborhoods in the central city, “We should not be wasting resources on further traumatizing and harming people who have no place to go, particularly when those actions take away the only shelter that people have during the rainy and cold season which can be life threatening to people living outdoors,” Valenzuela said in the post quoted in the Sacramento Bee.

Political Support for Unhoused People at the City Council Met by Resistance from Multi-Millionaires

At its December 14 meeting after the widely publicized towing and displacement of the unhoused community at Commerce Circle, the Sacramento City Council considered Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s “Resolution on Protocols for Encampment Enforcement Actions” that would have banned the towing of vehicles where unhoused people are living unless alternative shelter was offered.

In addition to the Mayor, two others voted for the Resolution – newly elected councilwomen Katie Valenzuela and May Vang, part of the wave of young, grass roots candidates who are winning elections across the country as voters and activists enter the political arena to fight for the very survival of poor and working constituents. 

The Resolution, even if it had passed, would have had little practical effect. It did not change existing laws or mandate new practices. Some have suggested it was a form of political theatre. This is not surprising. Most council members — with the exception of the two new council members who voted for the Resolution – have been dominated by the priorities of multi-millionaire property owners and their organizations, who contribute tens of thousands of dollars to local campaigns. Their opposition to rent control is only one sign of their alignment against the needs of poor and working residents.

According to the podcast, VOICES: River City, “campaign contributions from explicitly anti-rent-control political action groups to Sacramento’s city council members and Mayor Darrell Steinberg for their 2018 and 2020 campaigns near $54,000… Council members also received thousands in campaign donations from real estate developers and property managers…” Among the actions that have reflected the power of these forces are the following:

  • The council has refused robust rent control in the midst of the housing crisis.
  • They have saddled the City with decades of debt (half a billion and counting) to build a downtown sports arena, following the model of other “entertainment cities” to bring up property values for the benefit of the few who own neighboring venues.
  • They have subsidized development that has impacted whole neighborhoods, accelerating gentrification and displacement.
  • They have resolutely refused to require developers to build low-income units as a condition of permitting luxury housing construction.
  • They made no plans to preserve “naturally” affordable housing before it was snapped up by investors.
  • They have made few attempts to site and secure the housing that is needed for the tens of thousands who are housing insecure or homeless, funding squalid, under-served encampments, and “emergency” shelters instead.
  • They have sat back while thousands have been subjected to traumatizing police raids and sweeps.
  • Their pursuit of development in the City has failed to invest in the neighborhoods where most poor and working people live

Despite all this – and even though the Resolution would have been limited in its effect – the Resolution is an important sign that the housing crisis, and the resulting explosion of tent and vehicle encampments on every street and park, is changing the political narrative in favor of the unhoused. The imperative of housing has become undeniable.

This is evident in the headline articles by the gifted local reporter Theresa Clift, exposing hardship and death in the unhoused community. It is evident in the growing organizational unity and moblization among the different activist groups across the region. There is a groundswell of awareness and concern.

At the same time, there is an upsurge of verbal attacks and vilification of unhoused people, a backlash, an attempt to push those in dire poverty outside the conversation and abandon them to police “management.” This was exemplified by the testimony of the “business community” at December’s city council meeting, all horrified at Resolution’s acknowledgement that it is a cruel and useless policy to displace and destroy vehicles where people are living when they have nowhere else to go.

Perhaps Mark Friedman’s comments were the most revealing. Mark Friedman was born to wealth – his family owns a mall and vast properties throughout the region – and he recently purchased the most expensive house ever sold in Sacramento. No doubt he starts each morning by slipping into the swimming pool that shimmers outside the glass doors of his bedroom.

Mark Friedman has no problems. As he describes it, his life is “charmed.” His goal for Sacramento is to transform it into “the Silicon Valley [meaning tech hub] of agribusiness;” his investments have reshaped our city in his interests without regard for the need for low income housing, quality education, and other public services. As far as he is concerned, unhoused people are simply like rats, worthless undesirables who stand in the way of the full realization of the wealth and property his life exemplifies.  

Friedman started out his testimony by evoking fear of encampments as places populated by dangerous and demented criminals, listing drug abuse, theft, prostitution, violence and even murder“We must not shrink from the reality we are dealing with,” he commented, we are “losing control of the city.”  He spoke for pure class war on the poor.  

There are couple of problems with his narrative, which is now being advanced with new fervor in the face of a rising public consensus that people need housing.

First, it is unseemly – inappropriate, improper, disgusting – for a multi-millionaire to attack those in dire poverty.

Secondly, vilifying – demonizing, degrading – poor and powerless people is a despicable tactic, the same one that has been adopted by the most rabid, racist, and hateful forces in American politics today.For example, Ashli Babbit, the Q-anon adherent, in her media posts repeating right wing propaganda about immigration, said, “This immigration thing, I guess I’m taking it personally, because I am here and you see the effects, you see the crime, you see the drugs…you see the rapes, you see all the gangs.”(LA Times).

Thirdly, the narrative is false, demonstrably false, because it disregards and denies the economic deprivation now inflicted upon masses of people, subjecting them to hardship and homelessness on a scale not seen since the Great Depression.

Who are the real criminals, the multi-millionaires or the vulnerable, shattered families trying to survive?

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SHOC office hours

Mondays and Thursdays from 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM.

We will be closed Monday, January 16, 2022 in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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Get the Facts – Get the Shot

(pdf on covid page)
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Thank You SDOP!

SHOC wants to thank the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People for their funding and hands-on partnership this past year! They have helped us a great deal to become a stronger organization and to help us protect the rights of unhoused people in Sacramento and beyond. We were able to continue publishing Homeward Street Journal and publish other important information for the unhoused and the general population, distributed by a robust outreach effort. We’ve accomplished a great deal more, including events, coalition work, regional and local campaigns, Covid response work, and continued our weekly organizing meetings on zoom.

If you are a new non-profit you should check them out as a possible funder. They are very engaged, amplify your work, and they will help you succeed!

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Root Shock


By Cathleen Williams, with thanks to Donta Williams and Curtis Freeman

First of a Series on the “Whys” and “Wherefores” of the Houseless Population from Homeward Street Journal 25-3

According to Donta Williams, unhoused African American leader in the Sacramento Union of theHomeless,

 “Resources are very important to getting ahead, to getting back on track. Many African American men are unhoused because they lack necessary job training, and I feel that some type of program for trades needs to be implemented.

You have to have the job experience, you have to have the resources in what you are trying to do. A main barrier would have to be race. I don’t feel we are given a fair shake, treated equally. There’s still racism in America, even when it comes to going and getting a job.”  

Every generation of African Americans, brought or born here, has paid an unbearable price for survival itself. Of course, individuals and communities have also flourished – but this is often despite the price that is paid, over and over, by African Americans just to live, just to raise a family, just to have work and health. While all poor and working people are affected by this system, based, as it is, on private property and profit-driven corporate power, the African

American experience, in particular, is one of “root shock,” a term coined by the late, great African American scholar and activist Clyde Woods of the Los Angeles Action Network (LACAN).

“Root shock” – the very words send a shudder through the body. Today, the number of African Americans in the homeless population is dramatically disproportionate. African Americans account for 40-56% of the unhoused, while they represent only 12% of the population nationwide.  (See, Freedom Now,Why the Silence? Homelessness and Race,” p. 44.) Uprooted over and over, African American families have been stripped of the resources and assets necessary to maintain housing security.

The problem is now impacting more and more people of other ethnicities too, and this is one reason it is more important than ever to understand and address the underlying causes which affect so many people and are at the core of the obstacles to housing security faced by the poor.


To understand “root shock,” it makes sense to start with the shape of our cities, stamped by  the segregation of African American neighborhoods.

The methods of segregation are now beginning to be documented and exposed. African Americans are and were confined to certain areas, and excluded from others, through multiple governmental policies, a racialized system of subsidies and penalties, and deliberately discriminatory financial and real estate practices. Segregation and discrimination were fully accepted and enforced until the 1960’s, when the civil rights movement and federal legislation began to outlaw them.[i]

However, in reality the policies and practices of segregation, as well as their effects, have continued. “This cycle of disinvestment blocked communities of color from the accumulation of intergenerational wealth that flowed in white neighborhoods due to government-supported financial security in home ownership in areas with steady growth of property values.” (See, Federal District Court decision, LA Alliance for Human Rights v. City of Los Angeles, 4/20/21, p. ).

Multiple forms of housing displacement – expulsion – have resulted from this structural racism. In Sacramento, for example, 75% of the city’s diverse communities of color lived in the segregated downtown district west of the State Capitol, the “West End.”    The area was cleared by “urban renewal.” Massive expulsion was justified by the pretext that the area was permanently “blighted” – reflecting the fact that loans for improvement in the West End were systematically denied.

At the same time, white suburban enclaves were constructed with government support, and commuter freeways were built through “inner cities.” This brought about further demolition and expulsion of mostly Black neighborhoods. (See, New York Times, 5/27/21 “Can Removing Highways Fix American Cities?”)

Once “redeveloped” and “renewed,” governmental agencies placed the land into the hands of investors standing to profit.  “The very plans aimed to ‘renew’ communities destroyed existing neighborhoods where communities of color resided.” (See LA Alliance decision, p. 8.) This is still true.

The name of the West End has been forgotten, but, as the federal court found, the segregation of our cities paved the way for present-day expulsion of residents from Black neighborhoods. Property was devalued because of segregation, and in these neighborhoods, schools and services and even street trees were officially neglected and inferior.  These neighborhoods then became especially vulnerable to new corporate and hedge fund investors. (In Los Angeles, for example, two thirds of rental housing is now owned by “speculative investment vehicles.” See, Knock-LA .com 3/10/21)  

The resulting rising rents, driven by speculator-owned housing, victimize millions of poor renters of every ethnicity today. Unaffordable rents cause homelessness everywhere. But African American residents have been impacted most of all. Nearly 40% of Black tenants in California spend more than half their income on rent, a burden exacerbated by the current pandemic, with Black unemployment hovering over 15% by official figures, but estimated to be much, much higher in actuality. (LA Times, 7/19/20 “Amid Coronovirus Pandemic, A Black Housing Crisis Gets Worse”.)

As expulsion from neighborhoods (deceptively called “gentrification”) has intensified, Black homeownership has dropped everywhere — by half in Sacramento County. The foreclosure crisis of 2008 brought increased competition for rental housing and rent increases even as it stripped Black families of their few assets.  (Sacramento Bee, 4/30/17 “Why Most Black Sacramentans Still Can’t Buy A Home Eight Years After The Great Recession”).  Coupled with high rates of unemployment and low wages, housing insecurity and loss have forced African Americans into the street across the country, along with poor people of every ethnicity. 


Donta Williams: “Mass incarceration plays a major role in the homelessness of African American men. African American men are specifically targeted by the police.  I believe a lot of people – they just give up, they don’t have the family support. If you are getting back on your feet after prison, all by yourself, it’s going to be pretty hard, almost impossible to do. Again, you have to have resources. You have to be in contact with the right people, and they have to know what your situation is, because everyone’s situation is different.”

There are many factors relating to rising poverty and homelessness in this country, including the destruction of public housing; the elimination of federal family support and aid; decades of cuts amounting to “organized abandonment” of poor workers.  The loss of living wage jobs as a result of de-industrialization and automation has had a huge impact.

All of these conditions, and more, are foundational to the rising numbers of unhoused people now inundating our cities. But for African Americans, mass incarceration and criminalization on the city’s streets stands out as a major driver of homelessness and housing insecurity. The facts are stark: “In 1950, the incarcerated population was 70% white and 30% non-white, but is now 70% non-white and 30% white. Yet there is no change in the rates of criminality between the two groups. See, Freedom Now, “Learning from Los Angeles: Producing Anarchy in the Name of Order,” p.36.)

“The War on Drugs and its resultant crackdown on African American [men] has been by far the most significant factor in producing the tripling of the US prison population since 1980. In the years 1986-1991, the number of African Americans doing time for drug offenses in state prisons increased by 465.5 percent. Many of these men were first offenders…These spells behind bars produced sharp transitions within each life course: from low wage work to unemployment, from rental housing to hotels or the street, from marriage to solitude or unstable relationships…” [ii](Ethnography 2002 “The Nexus: Homelessness and Incarceration in Two American Cities,” p. 507-508.)

The causal link between incarceration and homelessness is rarely discussed, like Black homelessness itself, but several recent studies report that between 40% and 80% of unhoused men have spent time in jail and prison.  The majority are African American men. It works like this: Incarceration leads to homelessness. Homelessness leads to incarceration.


Incarceration results in being unhoused because it interferes with the family relationships that are essential to housing security. As Curtis Freeman, a formerly unhoused African American who volunteers in providing for the basic needs of homeless encampments in Sacramento, shows one way this happens. “I was in prison. Before that, I was staying with my mom and became her caretaker. Before I got out of prison, my mom died. She had gotten money from one of those “Financial Freedom” loans on the house.” This is the type of high interest equity loan often deceptively marketed to poor home owners, a practice that contributed to the foreclosure crisis.

Curtis Freeman explains, “When I got out of prison, I moved into her house but it was already in foreclosure. I and nobody in my family had that type of money. One day I came back and the locks were changed and I became homeless.  If I hadn’t been in prison, I could have dealt with it better. I could have helped the family.”    

In addition to stressing family ties, prison records and prison-related trauma affects employability. According to Donta Williams, speaking of unhoused men, “You have to have job experience. I feel that some type of program for trades needs to be implemented. A lot of these people don’t have trades. Also, the type of resources that are needed are mental health and case management.”

Interviewing unhoused men in San Francisco, one study found that, “The restrictions, authoritarian micromanagement, and routinized abuse of prison life profoundly alter ‘habitus’ [way of living]…The [prison experience of unhoused men] forces them to relinquish outside values and practices in favor of new strategies for survival…The low tolerance for discipline and authority after prison led [the unhoused men interviewed] to prefer the freedom of street homelessness to the low status and high insult level of bottom-rung work and accommodation in shelters…” (See, The Nexus, above, p. 511.)


Curtis Freeman: “You end up in jail when you are houseless because you use whatever means is necessary to survive. You don’t have family. If you had a roof over your head, you wouldn’t be thinking like that or doing like that.”

Donta Williams: “The police play into us being unhoused because they are supposed to be helping us but instead they target us and don’t even necessarily give us a chance. They are not helping us to get the resources that we’re lacking. They are more hindering than helping by taking people’s property and doing everything other than helping. They pick and choose who they are going to help, when they should be helping everybody.  I thought their job was to protect and serve.”

Police sweeps – warrant checks, arrests and citations for living outside, the confiscation and destruction of possessions, the shattering of the relative stability and neighborliness fostered by encampments – all these law enforcement tactics intensify the mental trauma and physical hardship of homelessness. These types of police “management” also lead directly to incarceration of people living without housing or shelter. “The practical effect of this type of policing…is to continuously circulate houseless people through the jails, making it very difficult to sustain employment or job training.” (Nexus, p. 521).

The consequences of these practices are especially harsh for African Americans, but the overall effects are much broader. “Punishment and exclusion, predicated on [class based] and institutional racism, do not only affect the despised group themselves [that is, unemployed or ex-prisoner African American men] but in practice draw from the much broader skilled and semi-skilled working class, both black and white, multiplying the ranks of the permanently excluded.”


We can stop root shock by grasping the core of the systemic processes that lead to homelessness. We can protect our communities from the continuing effects of structural racism, and in doing so, better the lives and communities of all people. A year after the murder of George Floyd, we can keep gathering the forces to bring about this necessary transformation. Organizing and political engagement are key to holding government at all levels accountable. We can and we will succeed, and as we do so, we will end the continuing flow of houseless people in our cities suffering from dispossession and the after-effects of mass incarceration.

[i] “Red-lining,” which dates officially from the 1930’s, was the nationwide governmental and banking practice of “grading” neighborhoods by property values (“color-coded residential safety maps”), such that neighborhoods where Black and other people of color were concentrated received the lowest, “red” grade, and were classified as “hazardous.” Other practices, such as state-enforced racial restrictions on buying and selling (“racially restrictive covenants”) and realtor discrimination reinforced segregation. As a result, property values have been kept down and these areas continue to be denied home loans, capital investment funds, governmental services as well as resources like good schools, parks and trees, supermarkets and stores.

[ii] Michelle Alexander in her book “The New Jim Crow” brought to light the history and impact of incarceration on housing security, describing it “as a way of reproducing the social relations of segregation without explicit laws relegating different races to different places.” (Freedom Now, “Learning from Los Angeles: Producing Anarchy in the Name of Order,” p.36.)

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