“How about a mother who allows her family to deteriorate, to have no food, to sleep in boxes and in subway stations? Their children would be removed from them immediately, so today we are here to say, we are removing you from the care of our citizens.”
That boys and girls were the words spoken by longtime homeless advocate and my good friend, Dr. Savina Martin, on a cold November day just before Thanksgiving.
She was addressing the City of Boston on its horrid response to the homeless on Mass and Cass, otherwise known by its nickname: Methadone Mile. Outgoing Mayor Kim Janey gave an executive order to get residents in the area off the streets, and city workers began removing tents where folks lived along with their personal belongings.
As you can expect, no one had anywhere to go or somewhere to store their property, though the City said it would help people find a place to go, meaning a shelter or that they would help them store their things.
Where have I heard that before? Anyone remember Operation Clean Sweep?
But let me get back to Dr. Martin. Besides being a long-time advocat,e Savina is also a leader in the Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, the same one that was started by Dr. Martin Luther King before he was murdered in 1968. She is also a member of the Union of the Homeless.
Now if you’re wondering, “Is this some little ragtag group that just appeared out of nowhere?” — a little history. The National Union of the Homeless actually started in the late 80s, early 90s.
“Why?” you ask?
Because conditions had become so bad during the Reagan years that there was mass homelessness of families. People losing their jobs. Trickle-down economics was a massive failure. The Union was formed among these folks and before all was said and done, they made some noise. At one point they had 25 chapters across the country.
People stood up for themselves and spoke out. They marched. They took over houses and became a model for how to organize. They were a major influence to many of the founders of this newspaper, and Savina was right there at the beginning.
In 2019, Savina, myself and 100 people from across the country gathered at the Poor People’s Campaign’s Moral Congress in Washington DC. We voted to reestablish the National Union of the Homeless, which happened in 2020.
Which brings me back to this cold November day just before Thanksgiving. See this Press Conference that my friend was speaking at is the opening of the Union’s Winter Offensive. Its main goal is to call out the terrible twins of poverty and homelessness. There will be actions that call these out from now until Dr. King’s birthday.
Of all the times I’ve heard my friend speak, the one thing that stands out is when she said the call to end homelessness is a clarion call. Indeed, it is. It’s time to call out homelessness and end it. Join us.