The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) had its origins with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU) in Philadelphia. In June 1998, KWRU organized its first national bus tour to highlight the issues of poverty and economic human rights.
The bus made stops in communities across the country as it traveled from the east coast to the west coast and back. At each of the stops they met with individuals and groups, and documented stories and involved residents to work to end poverty through ensuring economic human rights for all (the rights to food, clothing, housing, health care, education and living wage jobs).
At the end of the tour, members of KWRU rallied at the United Nations to present their stories and to demand the enforcement of economic human rights in the United States. That bus tour was memorialized in the movie Outriders (1999).
In October of that same year, organizations from across the United States who participated in the bus tour and others who were dedicated to economic human rights gathered in Philadelphia for the Poor People’s Summit on Human Rights. Out of that summit, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign was formed. Since that summit, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign has gradually grown from its Philadelphia roots and its KWRU base into a national network in scope, membership, and activities.
In supporting local efforts, PPEHRC has contributed in a number of ways: strategic planning, organizing support, technical assistance, and mobilization of members to support actions. The organizing activities are not done in isolation: lessons learned in one part of the country are used to assist in other parts of the country.
Since its founding in 1998, the Campaign has employed time-tested human rights and civil rights methods – ranging from educating and documenting, to organizing and agitating – to shine a harsh light on poverty in America, and to build the capacity of poor women and men to lead the fight to reclaim their economic human rights and their civil rights.
POOR PEOPLE’S ARMY
Not a corporate campaign
We have launched a POOR PEOPLE’S ARMY in an effort to save our lives. More people in the U.S. have died due to the opioid crisis than from the Vietnam War. Our children continue to go to bed hungry, are forced to attend inadequate schools, and are the victims of violence.
Our families are not surviving, and in order for us to fight for a future for our children and the planet, we are getting organized.
On opening day of the Democratic National Convention, August 17, 2020, we want to amass the largest Poor People’s Army in the belly of the beast – to fight for humanity. We are waging a war against poverty for those of us here at home and those abroad. The children of Africa, of Venezuela, of Puerto Rico and Palestine (and the list goes on) are counting on us! Can we count on you to enlist today?
We are not funded by corporations and we don’t give our money or resources to corporate parties like the Democrats. We are an independent Poor People’s Army and a force to be reckoned with.
We hosted our first BOOTCAMP in Trainer, PA mid-March 2019, and are setting up other Bootcamps in other parts of the country. Sign up here to learn about how to HOST A BOOTCAMP IN YOUR AREA!
What does it take to become a soldier in the Poor People’s Army?
Have you read our Principles of Unity? If you agree with these Principles, that’s your first step. If you have questions, contact us at email@example.com.
Earn your SOLDIER BADGE & SHIRT when you do any combination of the following:
1. Go to a BOOTCAMP when possible. Bootcamp provides 20-25 hours of training in strategies and tactics of organizing, development of spirit and body and morale, and real-life practice on today’s Underground Railroad (projects of survival for poor people). plus:
2. Attend monthly, local organizing meetings of Poor People’s Army and/or national conference calls of the Poor People’s Army if there are no regional meetings.
16 PRINCIPLES OF UNITY
The following Principles of Unity have been worked out democratically by poor people organizing themselves, and are principles by which the Poor People’s Army functions:
1. We support and lift up poor people’s leadership.
If problems arise, we agree to sit down and find resolution in order to move forward for the best interest of the movement.
2. We identify and address the root causes of our poverty.
3. We support the international poor people’s movement as we work locally.
4. We are building a movement that enacts the future we want to see – one based on a cooperative economy and society.
16 PRINCIPLES OF UNITY
5. We organize for power. This means embracing tactics and strategies that help move the movement towards political independence. We are interested in enacting an alternative paradigm framed on the needs of the movement rather than those of corporate-controlled political parties.
6. We are committed to peace even as we daily suffer violence – the violence of unemployment, hunger, and homelessness. We have a right to feed, clothe and house our families – this is not up for negotiation. We also have a right to speak for ourselves about these inhuman conditions in which we live and have a responsibility to shed light on those that benefit both directly and indirectly from our collective misery.
7. We have a right and a duty to protect our families and each other.
8. We are collectively creating our vision for a different kind of world. We commit ourselves to daily political education, and do not take our leadership roles lightly. We will not allow ourselves to be bought or co-opted.
16 PRINCIPLES OF UNITY
9. We are committed to making and controlling our own media.
10. We recognize the need for a radical break with the status quo of progressive politics. We can no longer afford to hold onto old models of organizing that do not challenge capitalism. We must actively seek a significant paradigm shift, looking to other peasant models in the rest of the world and organize across borders.
11. We recognize the intersectionality of our oppression. Racism, classism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, abilism, and transphobia intersect in the ways we experience daily violence. However, we will not allow the police, social workers, doctors, scholars, clergy, nonprofits, or political parties to divide us along these lines.
12. We know the entire global capitalist economy is disrupted and undermined as new laborless electronic technology is applied to production, permanently replacing hundreds of millions of workers. These workers are cast out of, or to the margins of the economy, with little or no ability to buy the necessities of life. These workers are a new class created by robot/AI production. Our job is to build unity among this new class based on common poverty.
16 PRINCIPLES OF UNITY
13. We acknowledge that this country was built on white supremacy, imperialism, colonialism, and militarism, and we resist the ongoing perpetuation of these systems of violence.
14. Our work breaks with the military, prison, nonprofit, and faith industrial complexes.
15. We honor our ancestors, lifting up their histories and work so we may learn from them and share their knowledge with the generations to come.
16. We are building poor and working class political leadership and representation. We can no longer afford to have our movements used as the ‘base’ of the Democratic and Republican parties – especially at a time when the political elite of both parties are directly or indirectly participating in the diminishment of workers’ rights.
"There are 10 unoccupied housing units for every one houseless person in Philadelphia," explains Elsa Noterman, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, who recently conducted a study with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on available housing in cities across the U.S.
We believe the poor must take back the basic necessities of life. We prioritize #LivesOverLuxury. Housing & Urban Development has properties that sit empty for months and years, while families can’t afford places to live. There’s something wrong with that. We takeover these abandoned, government-owned properties and move in families with nowhere else to go. As of 2021, we have 30+ #takeover houses in the Philadelphia area. We need support with furniture and appliance donations, monetary donations, and labor for cleaning, moving, and repairs. Support this work at: bit.ly/TakeoverPetition
MOBILE FOOD PANTRY
We deliver free food to people in Philly.
We are currently providing free food and supply delivery to families who need it. Text 215-869-4753 or email PoorPeoplesArmy@gmail.com with:
- your name,
- address, and
- number of adults and children in your family–
We will get you a bag of groceries from what is in our mobile food pantry that week.
Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign / POOR PEOPLE’S ARMY Press Release:
For Immediate Release 3/25/21 https://poorpeoplesarmy.com/
Cheri Honkala 215-869-4753 PPEHRCorg@gmail.com fb/insta: @PPEHRC tw: @PPEHRCorg
Family in U.S. on Asylum Latest to be Housed by Poor People’s Army in 1 of 30+ Takeover Houses
Alin, his wife, and 4 children fled discrimination and persecution in Romania and found their way to the U.S. for a better life. They are Romani (previously known as “gypsy”), and received asylum and legal status. But struggling with a new language, no benefits, an economic slump, and a pandemic, they became homeless. They moved back and forth from PA to VA for sporadic work opportunities. Recently back in Philly, they had nowhere to live until a human rights group, the Poor People’s Army, moved the family into a 3 bedroom house, in decent shape, in a nice area of Germantown.
“Thank you,” Alin said in the few English words he knows, with tears in his eyes. “Thank you so much.” A team of movers and workers from the Poor People’s Army brought them furniture, is fixing the plumbing, and moved them into their first real home in the U.S.
But the property management corporation hired to watch over HUD’s vacant properties, BlmCo.com, left a notice on the door to vacate the property within 24 hours, threatening to “contact local authorities and report illegal trespass and / or start legal eviction proceedings.”
But the Poor People’s Army, a housing and anti-poverty advocacy group, has been helping get families into homes for over 30 years, and is used to this twisted cat and mouse game that goes on between homeless families and the Government agencies that own the vacant properties. This house is one of the 30+ properties in Philadelphia that the Poor People’s Army is using as “takeover houses,” which they say Housing and Urban Development have left abandoned or empty.
“This family, through no fault of their own, were homeless without help in the middle of a pandemic in the cold of winter,” says Cheri Honkala, founder of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign / Poor People’s Army. They say these houses should be used for families like Alin’s since there is a lack of affordable housing and safe shelters in the city. They cite a recent study by researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison that says there are 10 unoccupied housing units for every one houseless person in Philadelphia.
To draw attention to this crisis, the Poor People’s Army is having a press conference along with the National Lawyers Guild, who issued a recent statement supporting the housing takeovers (https://poorpeoplesarmy.com/#press). The press conference will take place on Sunday, March 28 at 1pm EST at Chew Ave. & Upsal St., outside Emlen Elementary School on the Upsal Street side. Reporters will be taken to the house one at a time, and a Romanian translator will be on hand to speak with the residents. People can also participate by Zoom: contact Poor People’s Army for the zoom link.
#PoorPeoplesArmy declares VICTORY in securing housing voucher and backrent for Manisha!
We received confirmation from the head of Housing Authority of Chester County and a County Commissioner that Manisha will be getting her back rent paid, the Bozzuto Group will not go forward with her eviction, they will lower rent, and the housing authority will provide a voucher to cover and keep her in this accessible apartment she’s been in for 3+ years. Congrats Manisha! Join PoorPeoplesArmy.com
Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign POOR PEOPLE’S ARMY Press Release:
For Immediate Release 3/6/21
Cheri Honkala 215-869-4753 PPEHRCorg@gmail.com https://poorpeoplesarmy.com/ @PPEHRC
On International Women’s Day tell HUD to
Stop Eviction of Woman with Disabilities
Manisha was homeless for years, staying with friends, and spending all her savings to live in hotels while she searched for housing and applied for various forms of assistance. On top of this, she was dealing with joblessness on and off, unable to find jobs that would accommodate her disabilities. After years of searching, Manisha was lucky enough to find an adequate accessible apartment at a new construction near her multiple medical providers at The Haven at Atwater Village in Malvern in 2017, managed by the Bozzuto Group corporation. Manisha did not yet have a voucher. Unable to find anywhere else, she spent her savings on rent.
Finally in Spring of 2019, a housing voucher became available to Manisha from the Housing Authority of Chester County, overseen by Housing & Urban Development. The voucher wasn’t enough to cover her current rent, so she searched and searched for somewhere else. In the meantime, Manisha’s disabilities worsened. She is unable to walk, is immuno-comrpromised, and is homebound. She is unable to work, is on disability income and food stamps, and requires several home health aides to assist her.
Manisha appealed to HUD, which oversees Housing Authority of Chester County, for a modest increase of the voucher, to allow her to stay in her current apartment.
“First I was told it would take 30 days for HUD to respond, then it turned into 2-6 months, and then longer. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and I can’t get any more info from HUD or the Housing Authority,” said Manisha. “I kept trying to pay the portion of the rent that I thought I’d be responsible for, but the voucher never came through to cover the bulk of the rent.”
Meanwhile, rent piled up in deferral. Bozzuto finally took Manisha to court and got an eviction order. Manisha is due to be thrown out of her apartment on March 15 at 11am.
“We are looking for a simple solution to this,” said Cheri Honkala, national coordinator for The Poor People’s Army. She is urging people to attend a press conference Monday, March 8 at 11am at 2000 Ruby Crest Drive, Malvern, PA, 19355 to support Manisha because the Housing Authority of Chester County (and Housing and Urban Development) would not update her housing voucher..
“HUD needs to provide the voucher necessary and Bozzuto Company needs to charge a fair rent to keep this woman in one of the few apartments available that meet her needs, or find an equal replacement.” Honkala, continued: “If you are going to throw a woman with disabilities out on the street in the winter in the middle of Covid, we are prepared to perform civil disobedience to stop that.”
The Poor People’s Army, a housing and anti-poverty advocacy organization that has been around in various forms for 30 years, is holding a press conference on International Women’s Day to draw attention to this, and encourages others to attend in person or on zoom: Meeting ID 894 7699 0913 (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89476990913)
For more information and to get involved, go to poorpeoplesarmy.com, text 215-869-4753, or follow @ppehrc on Facebook and Instagram, @ppehrcorg on Twitter.
NLG Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2/18/21
National Lawyers Guild: firstname.lastname@example.org
Poor People’s Army: Cheri Honkala 215-869-4753 PPEHRCorg@gmail.com
No Evictions for 30+ Families in Philadelphia Takeover Houses
The National Lawyers Guild stands in solidarity with the Poor People’s Army and all of the 30+ families that are sheltered in homes that are reclaimed, abandoned properties in Philadelphia. Three families in Philadelphia, residing in homes owned by the Department of Housing & Urban Development, have received notices or threats of eviction within the last 2 months, and could be thrown out into the freezing cold at any moment. Poor People’s Army / Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign has filed 3 pro se federal injunctions for these properties and are likely to go to court any day. The families should not be viewed as trespassers or criminals, they are human beings that have a right to safe housing. Since its founding, the NLG has organized to be “an effective force in the service of the people by valuing human rights and ecosystems over property interests.” The housing of unhoused people in abandoned government-owned properties is a prime example of this.
The NLG believes it is important for lawyers to take a stand on issues of life, death, and justice, even if there is no legal remedy. There have always been unjust laws written by those in power against the poor. Most of the evils throughout history have been legally sanctioned such as American slavery or segregation.
“We understand that the Poor People’s Army initiated these housing takeovers in an attempt to provide people a safe place to live during the winter and the pandemic,” says Elena Cohen, President of the NLG.
“Homelessness is now and has always been a moral, a human rights, and public health crisis,” says Sarah White, Co-Chair of the Housing & Homelessness Committee of the NLG. “As the homelessness continues with the ongoing pandemic and heightened joblessness, lawyers need to take sides and support poor people organizing themselves to survive against corporations and the rich.”
The NLG finds it unconscionable that anyone is unhoused in the richest country in the world and believes it is abhorrent that HUD or any other agency would move to evict a family at any point, particularly during the coldest months of the year and during a pandemic which has left half a million Americans dead.
“There are 10 unoccupied housing units for every one houseless person in Philadelphia,” explains Elsa Noterman, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, who recently conducted a study with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on available housing in cities across the U.S. “Nearly all of the takeover houses have children in them,” says Cheri Honkala, National Coordinator for Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign / Poor People’s Army. “If the City and country won’t house people, then God and us will.”
The NLG calls on HUD to immediately cease eviction actions, proceedings, and threats against all occupants in their properties. NLG calls for a formal agreement to allow families in takeover homes in Philadelphia and beyond to remain where they are.
For more information and to get involved, go to poorpeoplesarmy.com, text 215-869-4753, or follow @ppehrc on Facebook and Instagram, @ppehrcorg on Twitter.
Statement of PPA International Committee 3/3/21
Statement on the International Situation
Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign/Poor People’s Army (March 2021)
The Poor People’s Army seeks to end poverty and the wicked economic system that created it in the United States and to help the struggles around the world. Therefore, it is essential that we are informed about each other’s struggles.
Our movement is led by poor people. We, PPEHRC do not believe anyone should “speak for us” not the “professionals” or the politicians, Republican or Democratic.
The Poor People’s Army stands in solidarity with the movements across the globe fighting
poverty and an end to miserable living conditions. There is no indication the Biden Administration will change policies of previous administrations in how it meddles in the affairs of other countries. The following are only some of the countries where the US has had a deadly impact (for more than a century in many cases):
- In Haiti, people have taken to the streets to protest for democracy and the removal of the US-backed president who is refusing to leave office after the end of his term.
- In the Philippines, Indigenous, Moro, and poor people are defending themselves against mass killings and kidnappings of activists and supporters of democracy by the government of the fascist president Duterte, an ally of the US.
- In India, Punjabi farmers have occupied the capital to stop the enactment of laws by the pro-US Modi government that would take away the right to sell their food at fair prices without big businesses profiting from them.
- In Syria, the US has bombarded the northern area in another attempt to punish the country for refusing to allow its destruction by US-backed infiltration.
- Yemen is in a brave struggle against genocide from US sanctions. Starvation, destroyed infrastructure and nonstop armed attacks by the US-backed absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia.
- Western Sahara is fighting against occupation and a “border” wall by Morocco, a US ally.
- Puerto Rico continues the struggle against the US- imposed austerity junta after mass demonstrations forced a poor-shaming governor to resign.
- The sovereign Kumeyaay and Tohono O’odham nations on both sides of the US-México border have fought to stop border walls from desecrating their sacred lands.
- Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba fight to overcome overwhelming US sanctions as they participate in programs to create and distribute COVID vaccines without US interference.
Notice that the same government, regardless of who is in Congress or the White House, that
keeps poor people without food, housing or income inside its borders is also responsible for
poverty and destruction beyond the border. This is called imperialism. To fight it, poor people
need to know power in themselves and know that oppressed peoples all over the Earth are
struggling too. This understanding, this knowledge is solidarity, and it is what we need to make
a future that improves the lives of poor people everywhere.
The Poor People’s Army carries on the internationalist spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s original
Poor People’s Campaign. We need unity and struggle everywhere. Join us!
Long live international Solidarity!
The Struggle Continues!
We’ve launched the POOR PEOPLE’S ARMY with allies! We’re looking to expand our work and create Bootcamps around the country to train soldiers for the Poor People’s Army.
The ruling class has their own army and police, disciplined and united. Our side needs just as much training, education, experience, and discipline to fight for justice for poor and working people (though with different, emancipatory tactics).
BOOTCAMP FOR THE POOR PEOPLE’S ARMY
Support the movement that rose out of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 and has been working nationally and internationally for over 20 years – the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.
Or donate by a check made payable to: PPEHRC/AfGJ and send it to:
Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign
1505 W. Allegheny Ave.
Philadelphia, PA USA 19132
Thank you for your support!