The National Union of the Homeless is The Fastest Growing Union You Haven’t Heard Of
Put People First! PA, as part of the PA Poor People’s Campaign, recently established the newest chapter of the National Union of the Homeless in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
In September, leaders from the National Union of the Homeless visited Lancaster for the Medicaid March on Penn Medicine organized by Put People First! PA (PPF-PA,) a member of the Coordinating Committee for the PA Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
Medical debt and healthcare crises are leading causes of homelessness and securing healthcare is one of the biggest challenges for unhoused people.
After the march, the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee (HRC) of PPF-PA immediately put into action the lessons taught to us by the leaders from the National Union of the Homeless.
In late October, leaders from the Lancaster HRC held a meeting with a group of people interested in starting a Lancaster County Homeless Union through the National Union of the Homeless. That night, the Lancaster County Homeless Union was established.
The establishment of the union was the culmination of an intense month of outreach and base building at nearby parks the homeless are known to frequent, in addition to a partnership with the Lancaster Food Not Bombs. Through the partnership with the Lancaster Food Not Bombs, the Lancaster HRC began to make connections with the community that had both healthcare and housing concerns. They sat with them, shared food and talked about the work with Put People First! PA and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
It was proposed that our first action as a union be to host vigil for Deseire Quintero, a leader in the California Homeless Union who was killed by a falling tree after the city of Santa Cruz evicted homeless residents of the Ross Camp. Deseire, known as “Mama Desi” was part of a federal lawsuit against the city for this brutal displacement of families.
Lancaster, which has a growing homeless population of approximately 6,000, is the first county in Pennsylvania to re-establish a chapter of the Homeless Union after the demise of the original union during the 1980s.
The Lancaster County Homeless Union will work collaboratively with Put People First! PA and other groups as part of the PA Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
On November 29, The Lancaster Health Rights Committee held a “Day After Thanksgiving” Dinner.
During the event, the community broke bread, watched documentaries about the organizing in Paradise, CA, with the California Homeless Union, and discussed next steps for the Lancaster Homeless Union, Put People First! Pa, and the Poor People’s Campaign.
The PA PPC will continue to use this opportunity to get to know one another more deeply by sharing our stories with each other in order to strengthen our family and build community. That’s how we view ourselves, a unique community of people that are not only a part of organizations but are also family.
We look forward to the days ahead in continuing to grow and strengthen our local Poor People’s Campaign a National Call for Moral Revival Collaborative.