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Sanctuary: How I Came To Find A Home

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February 20, 2021
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I am an unhoused member of the Minneapolis community. I am what is commonly called HOMELESS. I have crashed couches, lived under bridges, slept in bushes, squatted in buildings downtown, camped at Powderhorn East camp, Powderhorn West camp, Minnehaha falls encampment.

A series of unfortunate life traumas led me down the path to where I’m at today. I woke up in Portland without wallet, identification, eyeglasses, and only 5% on my cell phone. A friend loved me enough to fly out there and drive back cross country.

That’s the short story of how I came to be homeless, but this story isn’t about me. It’s about Sanctuary.

When I arrived in Minneapolis, a friend told me the story of the Sheraton and what was happening at Powderhorn Park. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so I asked him to walk with me to the Sanctuary encampments. As we investigated, we came across a volunteer shed where I found the principles of the Sanctuary Movement taped to the side.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Abolition. Autonomy. Mutual Aid. Radical Empathy. Personal and Communal self defense.

An individual working security explained the basic set up and expectations of camp life later that night. Here’s where food and water was, here’s where supplies can be obtained, here’s the medical tent. The security person helped me set up my tent while talking with me, and there was no judgement present. Only kindness and soft words.

My first night in the camp, I was a little scared. There were an awful lot of tents and people! But there were little kids doing flips by the tipi, so I figured I’d be safe too. Sure, things happen at encampments, but as Big Zach from Kanser says, "living on the Southside ain't always easy."

Over the next few weeks I realized that the camps made leaders out of people and empowered people who had not been empowered before. I saw people stepping up and putting in work without being asked. Even in the hot sun when your brain is hazy and you can’t think straight. I saw people offer ideas and take on leadership from moment to moment as it was needed. I saw people working together and forming trust. I saw people deescalating situations and increasing the peace. I saw people eating clean healthy food provided by F12 kitchen and other kitchens. I saw drinking water, and a shower thanks to NECHAMA.

The nightly news won’t tell you about that. Their only focus is the trauma and crime. Being homeless is about so much more than facing trauma and daring to survive another day by any means necessary. It’s about learning that we need to start truly SEEING each other as fellow humans.

Living in the camps taught me that anarchism isn’t about violence at all. As anarchists, we are always willing and prepared to defend autonomy by any means necessary. But we are nothing if we don’t care for our community starting with the most vulnerable, unloved, and unwanted.

I arrived at Powderhorn as a man who was very angry at the world and ready to fight. I am still angry and ready to fight, but I have learned through living in homeless camps that the true war on fascism and the state starts with feeding and sheltering the people you were taught to fear and learning to love those who have suffered the most.

Sorrow, anger, grief, and unimaginable suffering lives within each one of us. Much of that has been at the hands of an apathetic society and a monstrously inhumane state that preys on human beings for profit.

Each one of us has a long and complex story that led to us living in a tent or a car or a bench. Each one of us carries massive repeated traumas within us. You don’t just wake up homeless one day.

Homelessness is by design. It’s a part of the pyramid we participate in. The working poor can say to themselves, “at least I’m not on the streets like he is.” Dividing us from our neighbors and fellow humans is a favorite tactic of the ruling elite.

Charity offers some relief, but ultimately it is just a way to keep the wheels of the economy turning. It’s not designed to actually SOLVE the problem.

Homelessness could have been solved a long time ago.

We need real change. We need affordable low income housing. We need the eviction moratorium to continue until the jobs return and the economy approaches something close to normal again. It’s ridiculous that many of us can no longer afford to live in the city we all grew up in together. We need public housing for the unhoused, and we need it right now.

Short term, intermediate, and long term plans must be made in order to save lives and help our city cope with the economic devastation caused by the global pandemic. There were over 500 tents at Powderhorn alone. And I saw unhoused people all over St. Paul as well. The problem isn’t going to go away. It’s going to get significantly worse and it’s happening fast.

To assist the most vulnerable, the unloved, the unwanted, the unheard is one of the greatest things you can do to fight back against the boot on our collective necks.

The People of Minneapolis sent tents and food and water. They did it with love in their heart and it made me indescribably happy to see people come together as a community to assist each other.

The city of MPLS sent bulldozers, police, and pepper spray. They did it with contempt for suffering human beings and the arrogance of the state. The inability of Frey or Walz to lead effectively has them repeatedly leaning on the boot of their murderous enforcers.

This madness has to end.

Police abolition is the only path forward on our march to liberation.

We need public housing for the unhoused and we need it right now. What’s happening is inhumane, and absolutely unnecessary.

Shout out to PV defense crew, Sanctuary volunteers, activists, everyone living in a refugee camp worldwide, all the political prisoners, and all workers of the world. Never give up. Never stop fighting. Remember, we are many! They are few!

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