Local social justice and political groups are joining forces to promote the concept of housing as a human right, and to get the City of Rochester to make tackling homelessness a priority.
The groups, including Take Back the Land - Rochester, Metro Justice, Band of Rebels, Rochester Against War, and the Green and Working Families parties will march from Washington Square Park on South Clinton Avenue to City Hall on Church Street on Tuesday, October 16. Participants plan to gather in the park around 5 p.m.
"We've been doing a lot of direct action, foreclosure defenses," says Ryan Acuff of Take Back the Land. "But along with the actions, we try to advocate for policy changes."
Some of that advocacy has fallen to the Metro Justice Housing Committee, which has two main goals, he says: to discourage the City of Rochester from using Chase Bank until the bank shows more willingness to negotiate with people in danger of losing their homes, and to get the city to enact a moratorium on foreclosures.
The city could use that time to develop a plan to end homelessness, Acuff says. Other cities have plans, but Rochester isn't yet thinking on that level, he says.
City Council member Elaine Spaull says homeless is a complex problem that defies a simple solution.
"I know that it appears to be a simple matching of vacant homes with homeless families," she says. "Perhaps the majority of the vacant homes are not immediately inhabitable: they need an enormous amount of work to get them ready. And then also many homeless folks need more than a roof over their heads. The social service needs are great, and that system is not in place to assist our homeless families."