Statement of Solidarity with the Unsheltered Community of Salt Lake

By

Democratic Socialists of Salt Lake

7 January 2020

The Democratic Socialists of Salt Lake stand in solidarity with the unsheltered population of Salt Lake City and the activists organizing to provide the basic needs the unsheltered need to survive.
Riot Cops attack peaceful protectors

Democratic Socialists of Salt Lake stands in solidarity with the Take Shelter Coalition in combating the criminalization of homelessness and the woefully inadequate services which have replaced the Road Home. Local shelters face shortfalls in beds and availability of care, both of which are consequences of poor city and county leadership.

We likewise condemn the SLCPD for sending riot police that violently dispersed the camp in Washington Square. SLCPD was attempting to silence demands that Salt Lake City acknowledge the humanity of the homeless and uphold their fundamental human rights to shelter, food, and medical care.

On Friday, January 3, at 12:16pm, Mayor Biskupski and Mayor-elect Mendenhall attempted to arrange a meeting with the coalition. However, Biskupski and Mendenhall provided a narrow window of time for the coalition to respond to their request; the coalition deliberates before making any collective decision. After Biskupski and Mendenhall released their joint statement (here) expressing disappointment, the coalition’s organizers quickly rebutted it. The short notice was strategic to justify a “clean-up” of the camp by framing the coalition as unresponsive and self-serving.

Nevertheless, community organizers still demand that the city and county

  1. Maintain parity with the previous count of shelter beds, 

  2. Stop criminalizing and harassing the homeless, and

  3. Provide transit fare so that people can access the geographically diffuse network of services and shelters. 

All of these goals are necessary, reasonable, attainable. In the meantime, mutual aid, often at personal cost to community organizers and activists, has been bridging the shortfalls in homeless services.

Operation Rio Grande cost $67 million and served only to harm the most vulnerable among us. On the heels of the closing Road Home, the city government budgeted increased funds for overtime. Our mayor and city council are responsible for the SLCPD continuing to extrajudicially confiscate people’s belongings, tent houses, blankets, and clothing necessary to survive the winter. This money would have been better spent providing for the needs of the homeless and maintaining a safety net for those trapped in precarity by stagnant wages and ballooning housing costs.

Rents have increased more than 75% since 2000, with 2/3 of that increase within the last five years. Wages, adjusted for inflation, remain stagnant (except for the wealthiest few capitalists), exacerbating how landlords and developers are gentrifying communities and pricing out working-class and other marginalized Utahns. 60,000 people in SLC alone pay half or more of their income in rent. 

The housing and homelessness crises fundamentally intertwined with and reflect a system sidelining and suppressing marginalized voices and using financial precarity to ensure passivity and compliance. Everyone should have the right to access housing and to decide how our city develops democratically. The commodification of housing affronts this right and is adverse for precarious and vulnerable populations. We should deny nobody a right to housing based on income, disability, race, gender, immigration status, or sexual orientation. More radically, both the collective right to our city and housing for all require ending white supremacy alongside decommoditizing, decolonizing, queering, and cripping our political landscape.

DSSL urges the people of Salt Lake to stand up and make their voices heard. We cannot be silent in the face of oppression. We must act in solidarity to demand an end to the structural violence and physical repression of the poor, the working class, unsheltered persons, and activists.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DSSL is a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America