Alternative Solutions Without Reliance

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Recent closures of Autumn Glen and Gateway
Studios brought a festering situation to
Champaign-Urbana’s socio-economic surface.
Former residents of these housing complexes,
unexpectedly rendered homeless,
learned of the dire circumstances which the
existing homeless community has been facing.
Champaign-Urbana lacks adequate
resources to assist episodically, periodically,
or chronically homeless individuals. Serious
deficits include lack of emergency shelter,
especially for women, children, or couples,
inadequate medical and legal help, and outreach
programs that will connect those in
need with the appropriate services. With
impending budget cuts on the state and federal
levels, services may no longer be available
to meet demand.
The Urbana Champaign Continuum of
Care, a cooperative amongst Champaign
County, the cities of Champaign and
Urbana, and area social service providers,
developed a ten-year plan to end chronic
homelessness, planning to provide the
homeless with “access to a coordinated
array of housing options and supports that
will enable them to sustain safe and decent
shelter” by 2014. However, UCCC is behind
in meeting several of their goals, including
those set to assist two-parent households
and female-headed households. This tenyear
plan offers more immediate, short-term
solutions, but continues to work within the
framework of a consumer capitalist system
that perpetuates and criminalizes poverty.
Efforts become nullified as such initiatives
cannot survive within this political or economic
environment.
Now we are amidst an economic crisis,
and an increasing number of people are
being pushed into poverty and out of their
homes. Capitalism is no longer the
panacea, and our government is proven
more and more inefficacious. Rather than
depending on the state to remedy the
housing situation, concerned citizens have
begun establishing grassroots movements
in Champaign Urbana.
The Safe Haven Tent Community, a selforganized
group of homeless men and
women, has created a safe, affordable, and
dignified alternative. Despite opposition
from the city zoning commission, which
has deemed the community illegal, residents
continue to demonstrate their right to
have their basic life sustaining needs met.
The People’s Housing Authority, born
out of the First People’s Potluck at the IMC,
works to improve issues surrounding
housing in Champaign Urbana, and participates
in direct actions that prevent homelessness,
like protesting evictions.
Other successful movements include:
• Mad Housers, Atlanta—construct
huts and donate free of charge
• Homes Not Jails, San Francisco—
advocate for the use of vacant and
abandoned buildings by the homeless
through adverse possession or
squatting
• Dignity Village, Portland—a selforganized
tent community
• Catholic Worker Movement—offers
houses of hospitality to the homeless,
working on principles of personalism
and personal responsibility
Further organization within the homeless
community is essential to huminize a
dehumanized population, allowing the
oppressed to shed victimization and
empower themselves. Community building
helps construct small-scale social support
networks, necessary for the decentralization
of government. Groups can work to
challenge a system that denies them, reconstruction
of an inclusive society.

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