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
BACKGROUND of HOUSING TAKEOVERS
We are asking organizations and individuals to publicly support 30+ families in Takeover Houses of the Poor People’s Army. These families are living in abandoned government-owned houses because they had nowhere else to go– often with children– during a pandemic and an economic depression. Our governments have repeatedly failed these families, so they are helping themselves and invoking their Human Right to housing with the help of Poor People’s Army.
Across Philadelphia, families are in danger and NEED YOUR HELP! These families are not criminals, they are not trespassers. We believe it should be illegal for governments to allow homelessness. Families and individuals are living in these homes, making better use of them than our government can, and improving the properties. Please support them with a public statement like the example statement below.
Imagine being a parent, hustling “gig economy” jobs, without a home during the COVID-19 pandemic. For countless families across Philadelphia, this has been the reality prior to the pandemic. According to a recent study conducted by geographers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are 10 abandoned properties for every 1 homeless person in Philadelphia. Many of these homes are abandoned by the very agency meant to help poor people: the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
BACKGROUND of HOUSING TAKEOVERS
The Poor People’s Army / Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) has been combating the housing crisis for 30 years across the country through actions such as takeovers of abandoned properties, legal advocacy, tent cities, and occupations of government offices. We have a network of people, much like a “new underground railroad,” that activates when needed for sheltering or moving people, advocating, or nonviolently disobeying unjust laws.
Because they wanted to do right by their children, families are avoiding the Covid-infested shelter system and moving into abandoned HUD properties. With help from the Poor People’s Army, over 30 families in Philadelphia have found and moved into abandoned HUD properties in relatively good condition. While some homes are not perfect, our Army volunteers’ help to fix up these houses, and provide heat, water, and a place to comfortably and safely lay their heads.
Despite not harming anyone, these families continue to receive eviction letters from HUD, via the management company https://BlmCo.com/, threatening to call the police within 24 hours and throw evict them out because HUD and BLMCo “have to manage and prepare this property for sale.” While many families would give up, members of the Poor People’s Army always find ways to support each other.
We currently have 4 cases in federal court to defend takeover houses. We believe that HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT and we plan to use these cases to challenge our legal system to enforce this right – declared in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, signed by the United States.
BACKGROUND of HOUSING TAKEOVERS
Simply put, we are tired of politicians telling us there is no way to fix homelessness. Every incoming local or national administration seems to have a multi-year plan to end homelessness and poverty, but it is never accomplished. We need to stand up as a people and take back the basic necessities of life. We live in a world of abundance, it’s just not shared fairly. Poor and working people should have a right to live and live well. They should have a right to food, clothes, and housing, especially in a nation with so much wealth and abundance.
The families in takeover houses working to improve these properties are residents with rights, and cannot be removed without court orders. HUD properties are federal property and Philadelphia Police do not have jurisdiction. This is a moral crisis, a human rights crisis, and public health crisis.
SUPPORT FAMILIES in TAKEOVER HOUSES:
1. Post this statement on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter acknowledging your support of the families in our takeover houses. Tag @PPEHRC on fb and Insta, and @PPEHRCorg
“Housing is a human right. We support the families in #PoorPeoplesArmy 30+ #Takeover Houses across #Philly. When the government does not put its resources to good use, it is the responsibility of the people to ensure their own safety and to invoke the internationally-recognized human right to housing.
SUPPORT FAMILIES in TAKEOVER HOUSES:
2. Make a statement, something like this:
In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic and another Great Depression for poor and working people, our local, state, and federal governments should be doing everything they can to safely and permanently house all people in the U.S.
Abandoned houses should be used to house homeless people, period.
There are 10 unoccupied housing units for every 1 homeless person in Philly, according to Elsa Noterman, a researcher at the University of Cambridge. Many of these homes are government-owned property.
Men, women, and children in takeover houses, and Poor People’s Army and other groups who take over abandoned properties to keep people alive, should not be targeted for persecution or prosecution. They are not criminals. They are brave leaders enforcing a higher law of human rights enshrined in the International Declaration of Human Rights.
It is homelessness itself that should be outlawed. We demand a zero tolerance policy for homelessness in a country with so much wealth.
3. Sign our petition at https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/housing-is-a-human-right-petition/
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.
#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
Statement of PPA International Committee May 2021
Statement of the International Committee
Poor People’s Army / Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign
May 2021 commenced with the global commemoration of International Workers Day (May Day), over a year when the COVID-19 plague disrupted life across the planet. It was.a celebration for the first post-pandemic action in the streets for many, not least of which in or in solidarity with nations in struggle noted in the IC’s statement earlier this Spring. Workers and nationally oppressed peoples fought in struggles against oppression and oppressors’ non-action and criminal neglect in a global plague. Palestinians are in a valiant struggle against the land-stealing, people-starving and prison-making apartheid regime whose only response to the suffering is savagery: armed attacks, lynchings, mass media lies, and extremist violent unlawful entry into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, all right on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, the conclusion of the holiest month of the Muslim calendar.
Colombians have been marching in the streets against the murderous US-allied narco-regime headed by Iván Duque, who proposed, and then withdrew due to people’s resistance that resulted in the police killings of yet-innumerable protesters, a so-called “Sustainable Solidarity” tax bill that would have expanded the tax burdens to lower-income people while lowering business taxes. This is besides the endless rampage of the Colombian state in killing peasant, labor Black and Indigenous activists.
Indigenous nations across the Earth are in a global struggle against environmental racism and attempted erasure of their peoples and cultures. People in Brazil and India are fighting for life against the Bolsonaro and Modi regimes who refuse to hear the cries of Covid justice and instead causing mass death of poor and Indigenous peoples.
The Biden administration continues the dedication of the US to endless sanctions as well as endless war. The good news on this front is that the countries affected are working to circumvent the US sanctions regime through alternative economic structures, including
decreasing reliance on the US dollar for trade, breaking its monopoly on petroleum sales. These countries are also ensuring the distribution and production of their own COVID vaccines that are critical in advancing global vaccine justice. It is critical that people in the US know that there are effective alternatives to medicine for profit.
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!