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Organizing For Housing Justice During COVID-19

Though this moment of COVID-19 brings up fear and can feel overwhelming, we’ve been here before. Act Up and LGBTQ activists united to confront the HIV/AIDS crisis in spite of corrupt CEOs and irresponsible politicians. The photo above was taken during one of the many protests they organized in the 1980s. Although our tactics for organizing during COVID-19 will have to be updated to help prevent the spread of the disease, we can take comfort in the fact that we are resilient and when we organize, we’re powerful.

With the continuation of the global health crisis known as COVID-19, our work as organizers building a world where everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home has become even more crucial and urgent. You can’t “stay home” or “socially distance” yourself if you don’t have a stable home to practice these health and safety measures. 

This virus is revealing to us the interconnectedness of our world in a very personal way. It is showing, conclusively, that the health and well-being of one is intimately bound to the health and well-being of all. Novel coronavirus has given us an opportunity to rise to the occasion to care for and support one another. We can take action to protect our loved ones and the most vulnerable in our communities who will be hit hardest by this virus, such as those whose health is already compromised, those who cannot or are denied access to medical care, those who bear great risk in asking for help, and those who are disproportionately experiencing poverty and pollution. It is our responsibility to protect the lives of those around us by limiting the spread of this disease as much as possible. 

We also need our decision-makers to understand the urgency of this crisis, to lead with compassion and thorough action. That’s where we as an organized collective come in.

5 Things You Can Do to Lead During COVID-19

As we are physically distancing and navigating major disruptions to normal routines, you, like me, might be wondering what you can do during this crisis – especially when it comes to the thousands in our state alone with no home to go to. We must organize for robust protections that address the health needs of low-income renters and our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Though this moment brings up fear and can feel overwhelming, we’ve been here before. Act Up and LGBTQ activists united to confront the HIV/AIDS crisis in spite of corrupt CEOs and irresponsible politicians. It is our time to gather (albeit virtually) and rise up again. 

  1. CALL CONGRESS & STATE DECISION-MAKERS

One way is to help our neighbors all across the country is by stopping evictions and foreclosures and providing resources (such as rental assistance and tenant-based vouchers) to those most at-risk in our communities, such as our unhoused elderly neighbors or those living with disabilities. Call your representatives and senators today to demand robust resources to help protect all people so they can continue to keep a roof over their heads during and after this crisis. Ask them to vote or support national bills backed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Additional resources:
Click here to find your representative
Click her to find your Senator
Click here to access a sample script

  1. ORGANIZE YOUR FRIENDS & FAMILY TO SHARE THEIR VOICE

If you are a part of the Resident Action Project, you know the collective power that sharing our stories can have on decision-makers. Now more than ever, we must encourage our friends and family to join us in calling our lawmakers. Challenge yourself to recruit at least 5 people to call/email Congress and state decision-makers. Ask them this question, so they can share their response with lawmakers:

With home: “What would it be like to lose your home during the COVID-19 pandemic?”

Without home: “What is it like for you to not have a home during the COVID-19 pandemic?”

We are powerful on our own, but to make a greater impact we must come together as a collective. 

  1. RECRUIT, RECRUIT, RECRUIT!

Despite social distancing, we can still organize and recruit new members to join our movement with the Resident Action Project! Encourage your friends, family, and community members impacted by these trying times to spend any extra time building power with our network. Right now we are in rapid response mode. We are organizing to ensure that the health needs of low-income renters and folks experiencing homelessness are addressed in our state and nationally – and we need all hands on deck.

Share this link and encourage your community members to join RAP here

  1. STAY CONNECTED

It’s never been more crucial for our shared resiliency and healing to stay connected within our communities. Using social media is one way to do that. However, if you’re like me and need a break from the panic currently sweeping our feeds, you might also consider downloading a couple of other virtual tools to connect with one other: Zoom and OutVote. Plus, by downloading the following apps you will be able to access upcoming RAP training sessions and leadership opportunities. 

Zoom can be used on your smartphone, computer or both. To get Zoom on your phone just go to your App/Google Store on your phone, search Zoom and download. From there you can sign up using your email address or Facebook, up to you. To use Zoom on your computer, follow this link and then you can sign up there. Zoom can be used as just a “call” where you use your phone and no video but using the video makes the meetings feel a bit more in person so we want to encourage you to use the video option if and when you can.

OutVote can also be used from a computer, smartphone or both. The computer version allows you to email your contacts about action and share stories and information back to us.  The phone app lets you get push alerts from us about action, send stories and videos straight from your phone to us, and pass on alerts to people in your contacts. To use OutVote on your phone you can get set up with this link. The app will get sent to your phone and you can sign up via email or Facebook. To use OutVote on the computer use this link to sign up. If you need support setting up your account email us at KikiS@wliha.org. 

  1. SHARE & BUILD RESOURCES

There are a TON of amazing resources being shared and created right now, but WE NEED YOU to help gather them! We’ve created a Google Form and shared resource list so that folks can access and add to COVID-19 & Homelessness resources.

Access the Google doc of shared resources here.

Submit brief form to add to list here.

Yes, these are alarming times. Yes, we are facing something new and unknown. But, are we powerless? No. Will we stop fighting for economic and housing justice? Never. We must remember, as activists and organizers, we are resilient. We know how to rise to the occasion – even an occasion such as this. And that is, TOGETHER. Stay safe and stay strong.

-Written by Kiki Serantes, kikis@wliha.org

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