Working While Homeless in NY

In case anyone needed more proof that homelessness has nothing to do with work ethic (I will fight u), this April WSJ article reports on how the NY housing crisis impacts minimum wage employees. It is definitely worth a read.

The combination of soaring real-estate prices and stagnant family incomes have squeezed New York’s working poor. Rents surged nearly 20% in real dollars from 2000 to 2014, while household income decreased by 6.3%. The number of people living in New York City shelters skyrocketed to more than 60,000 late last year, up from 31,009 in 2002. The rise in the working homeless is a big reason why.

I hate that we live in a country that pathologizes people for their suffering at the hands of systemic forces. I hate that its legal to profit from this suffering. A place to live shouldn’t be a commodity. It is a necessity and a human right. Everyone deserves to have their needs met and then some. Everyone deserves abundance. Everyone deserves a home.

BEFORE IT’S GONE / TAKE IT BACK

Before It’s Gone / Take It Back “is a celebration of Brooklyn life as it is now with all its rich diversity and history. We’re not interested in a Brooklyn that is homogeneous, without flavor, texture or color. Where only rich white people who can afford luxury condos can dwell. Gentrification destroys culture, displaces low-to-middle income people of all nationalities, takes away all that is uniquely beautiful about New York.”

This is a very cool multi-pronged, intersectional project. Before It’s Gone (B4G) has a well-curated website of legal resources for tenants, accessible information about ways to take action, links to neighborhood-specific organizations and community meetings, and an active blog including recent victories in efforts to secure affordable housing for the diverse communities of Brooklyn.

My favorite part of the site is B4G’s call for long-term residents to share stories, photos of important local events of the past, and anything else that documents the complex history of the borough. Collective remembering and record-keeping is part of resisting the homogenizing erasure that happens with gentrification. Let’s all host more anti-colonial story events, fr

gentrification // colonialism :: ????? // decolonization

You know the slogan “gentrification is the new colonialism”?

It’s been on my mind a lot lately. The logic that propels gentrification forward mirrors the logic of colonization—land as a static object, capable of being possessed by private individuals and monetized in as many ways possible, at the expense of displacing its previous inhabitants.

But I’m stuck on this—if gentrification is a form of colonialism, is resisting gentrification and coming up with alternatives a form of decolonization?

I don’t think the answer is yes, or at least not necessarily. Our bodies matter. Our bodies’ histories matter. Even if I organize for affordable housing models and collectivized land-ownership, my Irish family came here as settlers. My Xicanx family completed our transformation into settlers when we moved to Oregon, historically beheld by Anglos as a white homeland, and became the repressed white-passing people we are today. My recent arrival to NYC aligns with current patterns of migration and displacement associated with gentrification.

On many levels, I don’t know how to divest from the privilege my settler status gives me. There are a lot of things I don’t know. I guess this is just to say that researching the indigenous history of present-day NYC is on my to-do list, that knowing the true stories of the land is part of my project of radical queer homemaking.

And it’s to say that sometimes anti-gentrification activism feels like scraping off the top inch of a hundred foot deep history of racial trauma. But then again maybe time is cyclical and healing this top inch will reverberate across the centuries. idfk.

Anyways, go check out this amazing blog called Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory & Practice. On the topic of the relationship between housing activism and settler colonialism, take a look at the Un-Settling Settler Desires essay by Scott Morgensen. They have much more to say about how settler relationships to colonized lands have implications for alleged (and sometimes real) anti-colonial activism. 100% worth a read.

 

NYC Community Land Initiative

NYCCLI has some very cool accessible resources for people looking for sustainable ways to resist gentrification in their own communities. Includes basic information on the cycle of gentrification in multiple formats, recent updates on NYCCLI work, and a list of active Community Land Trusts in the NYC area. Here’s a great 4-minute video summary, produced by NYCCLI and Picture The Homeless.

 

From a Jan 2018 CityLimits.org story,

“From a policy standpoint, 2017 was a victorious year for New York City’s CLT movement. It began with the de Blasio administration, after months of prodding by advocates, opening the door to the CLT vision by releasing a Request for Expressions of Interest, calling on groups to submit proposals detailing how they would develop and manage CLTs. In July, the de Blasio administration announced it had applied for grant funding from Enterprise Community Partners and had received $1.65 million for a variety of CLT projects.”

Community Land Trusts are actively gaining support and visibility here, very exciting! If their work interests you, NYCCLI has opportunities to join as an individual or organizational member. Happy homemaking. x