Saturday, September 20, 2008

Housing Vouchers: A Feminist Issue?

I'm back in Chicago this weekend after spending most of the last week in Washington, DC, with ADAPT for our Fall 2008 National Action. The website for the action is and the ADAPT site is My role with the action was to coordinate different forms of media with a team of really great activists, and we got a lot done, especially in terms of getting folks outside DC to participate in the action. The focus of our action was housing for people trying to get out of nursing homes and institutions. Towards this end, we had people end up being arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience at the offices of Senators Dodd and Shelby, as well as Representative Frank. We also hit the campaign offices of John McCain in Crystal City, Virginia, where at least one of our people was forced to go to the emergency room due to injuries caused by police.

Why Dodd, Shelby, Frank and McCain? Dodd, Shelby and Frank are in position to help the disability community push for legislation that would ensure coordination of CMS and HUD services to provide subsidized housing vouchers for people with disabilities who live on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In all housing markets, a modest one bedroom costs more than the entire monthly check of someone on SSI (usually about $640). McCain is, well, McCain. The guy owns at least seven homes and can't really be bothered to deal with housing policy for people who are essentially homeless. Notice that these four lawmakers come from both sides of the aisle. Our effort is not political in a party sense. It's more about who can get the issue solved.

Housing as an issue for women and girls with disabilities is critical. At least 75% of nursing home residents are women. In addition, if a woman with a disability needs to leave an abusive household, her choices for new housing are extremely limited. In Chicago, we have reportedly only ONE battered women's shelter that is physically accessible. Moreover, plenty of women with disabilities are also single moms and a safe, affordable place to live is of utmost priority. An affordable, accessible, INTEGRATED home keeps our women and girls safe and off the streets.

So it heartens me that somewhere around 400 activists with disabilities were able to get their act together to go to DC for this fall's action and get the word out about this horrible problem, and about the fact that we actually have a policy platform that offers solutions (see the duhcity link above). It was damn tough because the world markets have been in crisis and Hurricane Ike hit, but somehow the DC Capitol Police and the police in Crystal City weren't really able to stop the force of our actions. I was arrested with my fellow ADAPTers at Senator Dodd's office because "his" aide refused to sign a letter stating she would work with us. McCain...well...I did that last spring...see John McCain, despite being disabled himself, is at fundamental odds not only with feminists but with people with disabilities.

I think it was Barney Frank who said that the direct action used to reach him was "undemocratic." In case Frank hasn't noticed, we don't really live in a democracy. If we did, women and girls with disabilities would actually be heard instead of being hidden away from the eyes of legal and social justice.

No comments: