In These Times reports - July 24, 2020
"In Philadelphia, single mothers and their children have moved into abandoned, publicly owned buildings, in the most significant housing take over in the country—at a time when millions have lost their jobs and the country is on the brink of another housing crisis. Jennifer Bennetch has helped place unhoused people into vacant homes owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), as the founder of Occupy PHA and a member of the Philadelphia Housing Action coalition. She's doing what she says is “the government’s job to make sure people who need it have housing.” So far, Bennetch and other organizers have housed over 40 people by occupying 11 homes, all owned by the authority whose responsibility it is to match people with public housing. Bennetch says that the families have no intention of leaving, and organizers are currently negotiating with the city to come to a resolution. Elsewhere in the city, unhoused people have escalated their demands for the right to housing by creating two protest encampments, one in front of PHA headquarters and the other in the middle of Center City."
Covid-19 is surging just as eviction moratoriums and enhanced unemployment benefits for millions are set to expire in a few days. The stress of that alone is detrimental to ones health. The reality of homelessness and poverty is devastating to ones well-being and immune system.
The Atlantic reported in January 2016
Every day, a half-million people find themselves without a stable place to stay, and up to 3.5 million experience this at some point during the year. Homelessness impacts men, women and children across the U.S. in big cities and small towns. It impacts all races and ethnic groups, but disproportionately people of color. African-Americans and Latinos comprise 40.1 and 19.9 percent respectively. Families headed by women make up a third of the homeless, and well over 100,000 children are homeless each day. Half of those children are younger than 5.
The connection between housing and health is coldly logical. The sick and vulnerable become homeless, and the homeless become sicker and more vulnerable.
Although the tipping point is often the loss of a job, sickness or injury often precede it. Sickness and injuries make holding a job difficult, which leads to income declining and homelessness for those without a safety net. Due to the mostly employer-based health insurance coverage system in the U.S., no job means no health insurance. The combination of unemployment and poor health can then lead to financial ruin. Nerdwallet estimated that 57.1 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills, making it the leading cause of the financial calamity that often precedes homelessness.
In These Times further reports:
"...unhoused people go through many of the same dehumanizing experiences as Black people across the country: surveillance, harassment, and being "stopped and frisked" and questioned just for their very existence. The purpose of the encampments is to house people, but to also create a space where “they are treated with dignity, like they have the right to exist,” says Sterling. And because 75% of unhoused people in Philadelphia are Black, the relationship between the Black Lives Matter movement and the right to housing are inextricably linked."
During a global pandemic threatening the very stability of American society, as the economic elite intractably insist on 'reopening the economy', regardless of public health implications, as millions of small businesses have been destroyed by Wall Street's and Washington's greed. While unemployment skyrockets with no end in sight. With millions standing on the precipice of abject poverty and homelessness, with no social safety net.
More and more, we the people are realizing, every day, we seem to exist to serve a system that serves the elite, the system does not serve us.
“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” - Plutarch