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Thousands march in San Francisco to demand “Housing Not Handcuffs”

San Francisco: Housing Keys,  Not Handcuffs, SAN FRANCISCO, janauary 2010

San Francisco: Housing Keys, Not Handcuffs

The following article appeared on January 20 2010 on page A - 8 of the San Francisco Chronicle. Paul Boden is the director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, which organized the demonstration. WRAP is a member organization of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC).

Need for affordable housing greater than ever

Paul Boden

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." - Barack Obama (Feb. 5, 2008)

During President Barack Obama's first year in office, we learned that change could come very quickly when a financial crisis was imminent, but what about the tens of millions in human crisis? Our change is still rattling in the bottom of our cups. Almost 40 million Americans live below the poverty line - 43 percent of them in deep poverty. Homelessness increased 12 percent from 2007 to 2008 in cities across the country. More people are being pushed into the street. If ever this country has seen a need for change, it's now.

Affordable housing is the only solution to ending homelessness. After years of community organizing by hundreds of groups nationally, we have seen some success when legislation creating the National Housing Trust Fund passed in 2008. The House has already included funding for $1 billion in a jobs bill passed in December, but the Senate now needs to follow suit. With that money, housing developers could produce tens of thousands of new affordable housing units and jobs.

Instead of recognizing the true cause of homelessness - the absence of affordable homes for very poor people - the conventional wisdom continues to portray homelessness as a problem of individuals: their dysfunction, laziness, mental illness or substance abuse. This myth ignores the reality of families doubled-up or living in a hotel, the working poor who can't afford a full month's rent, seniors who lost their housing due to gentrification, which reduced the supply of affordable housing.

Today , hundreds of organizations and thousands of concerned people up and down the West Coast are converging in San Francisco to evaluate our gains and our losses, and to organize for what must happen next. As a start, President Obama needs to provide significantly increased HUD funding in the federal budget.

Join us as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the election of Barack Obama and become part of the change we voted for!