Photo: An abandoned homeless camp in Austin during the February winter storm
Letter from a reader of Tribune of the People:
I was a member of an organization that housed every unsheltered person in San Marcos during the winter storm that shut down Texas for a week. We had contacts with the community of unsheltered people in San Marcos that let us find everyone who needed a place to stay. Then we arranged transportation for them to one of a few motels in town that we were working with. We were able to arrange for all these people to stay in these hotels by using hotel vouchers provided by the city, and a few local charities. I’ve heard people say there is more vacant housing than there are unhoused people, but to see every unhoused person be housed in the span of a weekend was dumbfounding. And there were still empty hotel rooms to spare!
It was a week of frantic, nonstop work that had some activists, especially the leader of our group, working around the clock. We had to go out into camps to find people who needed a place to stay, pick those people up and take them to the motels, negotiate rooms with motels, and deliver food out to the people that were sheltering. All this while the roads were iced over, and we were missing shifts from our jobs. There were less than a dozen of us working on the housing crisis team so we were all stretched thin and running ragged, but we did it. We saved a lot of people from freezing to death.
In the end we were successful in our goal to house everyone in town who needed shelter, even then just barely, but now the hotel vouchers have run out. The people have returned to their “camps”, and everyone in the group has gone back to their day jobs. We did so much work, unpaid of course, and then we had to just watch everything go back to the new normal.
It is absurd that we have to wait for a crisis to use vacant property to house people. We had to jump through so many hoops to get everyone into those hotel rooms but for what! So the hotels could profit off of this disaster!
Why did it have to fall on a team of untrained volunteers to do this vital work? I did what needed to be done to save those people because I don’t know how I would’ve lived with myself if I just sat by while people were freezing to death outside. But we were acting in crisis.,we made a lot of mistakes, and we were completely unprepared for the frozen conditions. Its honestly a miracle that none of us were injured.
We had to struggle against a deadly pandemic, a climate catastrophe, and against a broken housing system all at once. These crises upon crises that engulf our world made it so dangerous for everyone involved, and none of it was our fault. It is fault of the capitalists who didn’t winterize the electrical grid, it is the fault of imperial state that forced us to go out and work during a pandemic, and it is the fault of the monopolistic owners capital that force people to live out on the street in the first place. Disasters like this will keep getting worse and worse for us until we throw off our chains and wrest control of our world from the reckless bourgeois capitalists.
Tribune of the People received the above letter from a reader. We have chosen to publish it without editing. We emphasize only one point: the best we can do under this system is not enough, which the reader highlights in the closing sentence. This short report is but one of many stories of regular people coming together and providing a better response than the Old State. When the people in control of the New State control housing, all the people will be housed. The struggles for the people’s needs and demands form part of the struggle for power. The experience of this reader confirms, in our opinion, the dire need to develop the organizational forms which can bring together the most advanced and wage revolution—a violent power struggle in which the old order will be swept into history and a new society can be established in which the New State actually serves the people.
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