R2S Goes to Tucson
By: Lisa Fay
Earlier this month (March 2015), with the help of believers from GoFundMe and a grant from the MRG Foundation, Right 2 Survive (R2S) was welcomed back to Tucson, Arizona to work with leaders of Right 2 Dream Too, Tucson and Safe Park. While there, we engaged in meetings to discuss the next steps on their plans for making the future brighter for the houseless folks down there.
We and local activists spoke at a meeting, held by the city of Tucson, to come up with solutions that would work for all of Tucson's downtown dwellers. Also present were local business owners, shelter heads, and the Diocesan Bishop. In that meeting, discussions around housing, as well as traffic of houseless in front of businesses, were of great concern. R2S shared a power point of five of the tent cities and rest areas in Oregon and of other working models from around the country—all of which are low cost temporary solutions to houselessness that can be implemented and maintained using self-governance, while alleviating costs to the city and surrounding businesses.
We also attended a federal court hearing that ruled that sleeping in “pods” in a public space as a means of “Free Speech Protest” is a City matter and is to be determined by the City, not a federal judge. The City of Tucson responded swiftly. Within 3 hours of the ruling, the City had police officers posting eviction notices on all the sleep pods that lined the sidewalks in the Safe Park area. Folks were given 3 days to move their sleep pods and tents, or these would be confiscated. The police brought out the mental health task force to evaluate folks; and if they wanted, they could go into a mental health facility immediately, but (the mental health task force) couldn't provide any social service assistance.
Sadly, for the estimated 3,000 unhoused residents, Tucson is considering adopting Denver's harsh sidewalk ordinances that strictly controls the houseless movements in their public areas, and infringe on their Civil, Constitutional and Human Rights. R2S spoke about the Houseless Bill of Rights Campaign with interested parties, and helped folks understand the need for protection from criminalization based on housing status. In Arizona, certain felonies prevent folks from receiving any type of public assistance (i.e. food stamps, health care, welfare and housing assistance).
R2S also used the time to do interviews for their radio show (that airs on KBOO 90.7fm), and video recorded some of the things they witnessed. The radio interviews will air on April 8th @ 6pm. The videos will take some time to edit and format. We will let everyone know when they are finished, and they will be found here: https://vimeo.com/channels/right2surviveSome follow-up from the removal of the pods from downtown: Temporarily, they have a place, and folks can still stay protesting for their rights on the downtown streets of Tucson. Meetings, like the ones we participated in with community leaders, are still going on to find answers. Open dialogue is critical!
Next stop: R2S’s Ibrahim Mubarak, Ptery Light, and Faduma (from Groundworks Portland) are off to Denver for a national conference on houselessness— to be attended by Activist and Critical thinkers from East to West coasts— with the intent to unify organizations across the country who are all doing similar work, and to create a national network that addresses the injustices that the houseless struggle with as a community.
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