Housing Justice Is Love
I want you to know that fighting for housing for all is a form of love.
“The powers that be” benefit when we, as a society, are complacent and accept the oppression of those around us. I urge you to keep an open mind and consider not just what is possible within the constraints of our current systems — but to imagine what forging a whole new world could look like. I want you to push yourself to think in a love-first mentality and outside of the realm of profit over people. I want you to know that fighting for housing for all is a form of love.
What I mean when I say, “housing justice is love” is that if we want to truly live in a world built on love for our neighbors, we must completely eradicate homelessness and ensure that housing is established as a human right. In the United States, homelessness has been extremely normalized. It’s treated like some sort of “necessary evil,” as if it’s just this giant unsolvable problem. The solution to the housing crisis is simple — house people. It begins by internalizing the belief that every human being is deserving of shelter, regardless of employment status, income, mental health, race, sexuality, or other environmental or personal factors. No one deserves to die because they can’t afford or find a place to live. Once we unlearn some common capitalist beliefs, like “hard work is all it takes to succeed” or “poverty is a result of personal failures,” we can begin to reimagine the systems that make homelessness possible. By adopting empathy for our neighbors we can move away from treating housing as a money-making industry and towards treating it as a human right.
I don’t mean to underestimate what this will take. While the solution is simple, it definitely isn’t easy. We live in a world that operates on villainizing the poor and it will take major societal upheaval to change that. Many of the issues that exist in housing also come from our country’s long history of racist practices. It will take a lot of unlearning, difficult conversations with loved ones and strangers, and a huge value shift as a country. That’s on top of the hard work of building new systems and dismantling the ones that prioritize greed over our humanity.
Let’s start now.
Here are a few ways to practice housing justice as love:
1. Get involved with mutual aid.
Mutual aid refers to the act of people joining together to meet communal basic needs which our government has failed to meet. There are local networks around CT which uplift your community and get people support when we need it. These networks include efforts such as wealth distribution, rental assistance, child care support, skill shares, trading and bartering, and other forms of meeting each other where we are. Many folks think mutual aid ends after venmoing some cash to someone in need, but there’s so much more we can learn with mutual aid, like developing skills, sharing meals, hosting events and just laughing (or crying) together! It’s also a great introduction to becoming politically active. Some good places to start are Nonprofit Accountability Group, Black Lives Matter 860, Fridgeport, Free Center, REACH Fund of CT, Young Legends and many, many others. If there isn’t a mutual aid group near you, leaders from each of the aforementioned networks would be a great resource to contact to learn more.
2. Educate yourself and contribute to local politics and policy.
Right now there are powerful housing bills that could begin to move us towards true housing justice. Nonprofit Accountability Group, CT Citizen’s Action Group, CT Sunrise, and CT Sierra Club, GTA860, in coalition with other organizations have put forward HB 5795. This is a four part housing bill that includes banning winter evictions, increasing funding for rental assistance, protecting tenants rights by implementing an office in the Department of Housing dedicated to holding landlords accountable, and forcing new housing developments to set aside a higher percentage of affordable units. Another local effort to keep an eye on is SB 138, CT DSA’s effort to set rent caps. There are a lot of phone banks and canvass launches happening around the state to rile up support for the bill. For both pieces of legislation and other local policy fights, the best place to start is contacting your legislators and telling them why you urge them to support these bills. If you want to get involved further, reach out to movement leaders and ask questions. Ask where you can plug in and do it! Which brings me to the next thing you can do to fight for housing justice…
3. START ORGANIZING!
This one goes for almost any issue that is important to you and fits in snugly with both of the bullet points above. Community organizing is the practice of educating and mobilizing your communities to create a movement that pushes for social change. You can look at mutual aid and organizing work as two sides of the same coin — mutual aid serves the purpose of addressing immediate needs for our communal survival, while organizing works to set the groundwork for long-term structural change. An organization, or org, is a structured group of folks organizing together and being in community with one another. While electoral politics are important, it’s often touted as the only way to achieve any meaningful change. When we build strong orgs with people power, it makes us a force to be reckoned with and makes it easier to achieve true change. It’s also a great way to grow and step out of our culture of individualism into a cooperative space. Plus, it’s good for the soul. We live in a very fractured age with very few aspects of community left. Making a conscious and intentional effort to enter a community of practice and enter into friendships with fellow organizers can lift your spirits. This work can be really hard — we have to hold each other in the tough moments and celebrate the good times. A lot of the groups mentioned in the mutual aid section are also engaged in community organizing like Nonprofit Accountability Group, Black Lives Matter 860, REACH Fund of CT. Some additional orgs mobilizing around specific issues, intersecting crises and/or doing education work include Seaside Sounds Club, Sierra Club of CT, CT chapters of Democratic Socialists of America, Unidad Latina en Acción, Sunrise CT, New Haven Climate Movement, and many more!
Love is seen as this “thing” that’s impossible to define, but to me it’s pretty simple. Love is an action, it’s a practice, it’s something you do (not just feel). We can love our family and our friends but there’s something really powerful to be said about loving your community. Loving your neighbor, even if you haven’t met them yet, or loving the people around you that may not have friends and family to love them. When that feeling of being able to love people outside of your immediate network gets turned into action, we can create a really powerful force. To me, housing justice is a great place to start.