This piece is part of our 2022 Year in Review, a reflection on some of the most urgent issues and causes that mattered most this year that we’ll face in the next – and the tangible ways you can take action.
“The home is the center of life. It is a refuge from the grind of work, the pressure of school, and the menacer of the streets. We say that at home, we can ‘be ourselves.’ Everywhere else, we are someone else. At home, we remove our masks,” writes sociologist Matthew Desmond in his book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. “The home is the wellspring of personhood” (Psychology Today). But though the home is the center of our lives, housing in the United States is not a right but a privilege for those able to afford it. The wealthiest government in the world is trying to “annihilate” unhoused people with “a cruelty that is unsurpassed,” per United Nations Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha (Business Insider). Though the U.S. is in “violation of multiple human rights, including the rights to life, housing, health and water and sanitation” (UN), laws and treaties are ultimately words on paper. Our best hope to change an intolerable situation is to materially support the individuals, communities, and organizations struggling to enforce the rights to dignified housing and survival itself.
• Donate to save the People’s Townhomes and encourage your community to do the same.
• Support survivors of the Philadelphia rowhouse fire.
• Fight hostile architecture by removing center armrests from benches with a standard hex key.
Fighting “Penn-ification” with the People’s Townhomes
Ms. Darlene Foreman spoke with The ARD about the fight to preserve 70 affordable housing units in the Philadelphia neighborhood once known as the Black Bottom. The area is now more commonly called University City as schools with endowments worth billions of dollars squeeze out a Black community to build more research offices and student housing. But the residents of the People’s Townhomes have fought back for over a year with rallies and occupations. Without sufficient support, the residents now face eviction in January 2023 (Billy Penn). Read More >>
Bronx And Philly Fires Expose A History Of Public Housing Neglect
2022 began with a pair of preventable tragedies. Eighteen children and 13 adults died in fires in New York and Philadelphia. All were Black public housing residents. In the U.S., public housing is synonymous with substandard conditions. But it’s not like socially-guaranteed housing is inherently squalid. Our explainer about public housing shows that these conditions were consciously created by decades of underfunding and corruption. This year, we were reminded that this has fatal consequences. This month, yet another public housing fire caused $50,000 of damage in Buffalo (Buffalo News). Read More >>
The Cruelty Of Hostile Architecture
Sprinklers to drench people in freezing water, subway grates to pierce skin, benches designed for discomfort: municipal governments and business owners are deploying the architecture of cruelty to transform our built environments into weapons against the poor. Who has the right to exist in public space? And should our cities and towns be crafted as places to hold community or extract wealth for their owners? Read More >>