SHOCK! Presidential Candidates Discuss Poverty, Homelessness

We can’t let them off the hook.

The Women’s March seems like so long ago… Photo Diane Nilan

Maybe we’ve hit bottom and are bouncing back to functional. Wealthy people, the movers and shakers of politics for way too long, might not be happy to know that groups like the Poor People’s Campaign are on a roll.

On Monday, June 17, PPC held a candidates’ forum, and the brave candidates that agreed to participate found themselves on a hot seat. I managed to watch/listen to a good deal of it (kudos to MSNBC for airing this).

My ears struggled to get used to topics never mentioned in campaigns: poverty, homelessness, environmental issues that impact people in poverty, child care, health issues, policy racism…oh my! Interviewers, including Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, deftly questioned. Candidates couldn’t wiggle out with blah-blah answers. Audience members from across the country drilled down with follow-up questions.

What makes the Poor People’s Campaign so relevant is how the ranks are swelling. I just finished reading Alissa Quart’s Squeezed. For those who haven’t caught on, you are being squeezed like toothpaste out of your imagined security and plopped into the growing ranks of people who need to make tough decisions about money: food, rent, medicine, child care, education.

In a few weeks I’ll be hitting the road on my most ambitious trip ever — the HEAR US 2020 VisionQuest — a 25-state, 9,000 mile journey on Route 20 and I-20. Since this is a freelance project, I’ll be able to do what I need to do along the way, including filming interviews of families/youth not considered homeless by HUD.

I’ll conduct presentations, screen my videos, and meet with locals who want to get the attention of their elected officials on issues of family/youth homelessness. I’d love to have time with candidates criss-crossing the country in search of the #1 spot on the ballot.

You can watch this 2-min video to get an idea of this trip. You can join up with followers on Facebook. (I’m working my way up to Twitter. Yeah, I know, it’s where we communicate, if that’s what we can call it.)

One vital agenda item for my trip — to garner support for the much-needed law to get HUD to revise their definition of homelessness.

HR 2001, the Homeless Children and Youth Act, would shift how HUD grossly undercounts people without homes. They’re missing millions. And Congress is none the wiser. (More info and a simple action step here.)

Most people don’t realize that interacting with their elected officials is not only our right, but our obligation. Participatory democracy. It’s doesn’t just mean informed voting.

Without partaking we’ll get more of what we have now — and more bystanders will find themselves joining the dreaded ranks of those struggling with poverty and homelessness.

It’s too soon to tell if we’ve turned the corner that had us careening toward an unimaginable hellish existence. The irony — this parade to survival being led by the Poor People’s Campaign. I can think of no more appropriate leaders!

Founder/pres. HEAR US Inc., gives voice & visibility to homeless families & youth, ran shelters, advocate, filmmaker, author, 15 yrs. on US backroads.

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