The Coalition on Homelessness was invited to be part of the World Meeting of Popular Movements, an event in Modesto, California, meant to bring together Catholic leadership and grassroots organizers to address inequality and exclusion. When we first got there it was really crowded, with so many people greeting us and welcoming us. I was so excited to be there, surrounded by people who really wanted to step up and do something, all these people from different places.
There were five of us who attended the three-day conference to speak about homelessness: myself and four other Coalition volunteers. Many people had come to speak about other issues going on in their cities, mainly about immigration, but we were the only group who had come to talk about homelessness, a topic that initially wasn’t even on the agenda. People got up and told their stories, how new laws are affecting them, and how things are looking in the future. We heard about struggles in Chicago, in New York, in Miami, in New Orleans, in Sacramento. Looking around I would guess there were about 700 people at this conference.
When we broke off into smaller groups they asked what we do we told them we work with homeless people. Other attendees seemed very interested in what we had to say, and in my group I talked about the things we do here, and people thought our work we do with homeless people was really important. Many people said that while there are homeless people in their cities, it hasn’t been as much of a focus, but after talking to us they wanted to take in more seriously. When people I talked to from these other cities go back home I think they will bring this focus on homelessness back with them. I hope we can keep these relationships going.
We should also fight for immigrants because we don’t want our communities to get deported. Immigrants are more likely to be homeless because they don’t have as much stability, and many of them do farmwork out in the fields so they have to find find places to stay out there. A lot of the people at the conference were themselves immigrants, people who work in the fields doing farmwork. A lot of people said they we have to start doing something.
I hope that we can synthesize the struggles we all learned about through this event, and hope that these other organizations will start working for homeless people, and we can recommit to our work with immigrant communities. Many people think homeless people have rights, except we don’t have no rights at all. We all are in this struggle together. ≠