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House Keys not Handcuffs - an interview with Paul Boden

by Mike Rhodes (mikerhodes [at]
This interview with Paul Boden was broadcast on KFCF 88.1 FM. Boden is the executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. The interview is about the origins of modern homelessness, the criminalization of poverty, and building a movement to end homelessness. The audio is 50 minutes long (edited to comply with FCC regulations).
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Paul Boden interviewed by Mike Rhodes.
Broadcast on KFCF 88.1 FM in Fresno on Friday, November 28, 2014

The text of the interview:

Rhodes: Paul it's an honor to speak with you today. Tell me a little about yourself and your interest in the issue of homelessness how did you get involved?

Boden: Basically through a process of ending up kind of bouncing around from place to place. It is was the late 70s early 80s. We didn't have the tag homelessness yet we didn't have a homeless problem yet we just had more and more of us that were finding themselves with no where to live on a permanent basis and living off of sisters, living off of friends, squatting, went to Europe through woman I met, ended up hanging out at squats in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, came back to New York, there was all the Avenue ABC stuff going on with the squats down there and decided to come out to San Francisco. Through the good graces of one of my sisters was able to get out here and got involved with Hospitality House in January 1983. San Francisco starting it's homeless program in October 1982 and have been doing this stuff every day since then.

Rhodes: Looking back over the last 50 to 75 years we've seen a huge shift in the number and visibility of homeless people in this country. Walk me through what happened and how we got where we are today.

Boden: Well, when you actually go back and look at it from a cause-and-effect systemic perspective instead of looking at what drugs are available or de-institutionalization, but something clearly happen shortly before October 1982 because New York City started opening shelters in 1981 and police stations, empty police stations were the first shelters in New York City. Here in San Francisco it was empty Muni buses that they put out in front of Saint Anthony’s and in front of the old welfare department and everything was temporary short-term crisis, but yet no one really seemed to stop and say what's creating it and when we did that when I was even still at the coalition so maybe 15 - 17 years ago we, working off of a report that Cushing Dolbeare when she was still running the National Low Income Housing Coalition had done, where we didn't ever really, a bunch of GED from the street dudes. . .I’ll speak for myself - I didn't understand it and the data that was flowing out of DC was a little bit over our heads and it was like we couldn't use it if we couldn't understand it. It didn't really serve as an organizing tool for us until we pulled out public housing, section 8, the programs that we knew that we all hung out with and looked at those funding trends, look at those charts and then started digging deep into exactly when the cuts came who was the president at the time with that what was appropriated versus what was allocated and it showed so clearly that from 1979 to 1983 in 2004 constant dollars $54 billion a year in affordable housing funding was cut by the federal government. So, when you have this cumulative series of cuts that equals $54 billion a year that then expands and carries out at $54 billion a year over the next 25 - 30 years you ain't going to do nothing but create homelessness for people that are poor and so that became a strong organizing tool for WRAP, especially because were in all these different cities so what are the common threads that we all have that connect us as one and federal funding for affordable housing should be a connecting issue for every poverty-based organization every social justice-based organization and I say and social justice because over that same period of time the homeowner mortgage interest deduction program tripled. It wasn't that the feds stopped spending money on housing it was that the feds re-prioritized who benefits from federal largess and accessing housing and it clearly went from poor people to home ownership programs, because home ownership program benefit mortgage companies, realtors and homebuilders associations, more than it benefits anybody else and so that became a priority.

Rhodes: Was it just the financial sector that was primarily responsible for this shift or were there philosophical and political reasons for the shift in funding as well?

Boden: The best that I'm able to really speak to with any sense of confidence in terms of what these guys was thinking and they were overwhelmingly guys is Carter in 1979 seem to do this across-the-board series of cuts and looking at the numbers it was across the board there was a recession at the time. There was also a gas crisis, there was also the Iran hostage, but there was a recession at the time. Reagan's revolution was taking neoliberal economic policies and making them the bedrock of the United States government. We had tested that stuff for years in Central America and South America - Banana Republic refers to Chiquita Banana Company, so companies ran governments and governments served companies and that was tested and played with and tweaked and people were killed and whatever. Reagan's revolution at its core was commodifying every single priority for the federal government. If it wasn't making money for somebody somewhere in the private market it had no value to the United States government. The United States government first and foremost priority and we see that now in our military, we see it in our prisons, in our jails, in our health care, we see it in our education, we see it in our housing policy, we see it everywhere. Our public parks are about commodities and about generating revenue for private corporate interests and if it ain't whatever it is if it ain't doing that then it's not a finding priority. It's not economic stimulus and therefore it merits no support whether it be through tax credits or whether it be through direct funding from our federal government and the end result of that is people that don't have money ain’t getting nothing except more policing more private security more jails and more prisons and that we seem to be getting ad nauseam.

Rhodes: Was that HUD change in funding priorities related to the reduction in the number of rural affordable housing units constructed or was there something different going on with that?

Boden: It was when rural housing funding was created it was during the New Deal when HUD, what is now called HUD was created it was 1937, so when you think back to the new deal era to administer housing funding for local communities you already had a US Department of Agriculture that was in rural communities. There was no need to create a new federal government program to administer that funding. You did it through the apparatus that was already there. The US Department of Agriculture, as weird as it may sound as in people, has since the 1930s funded affordable housing and home ownership programs in rural communities. HUD was created in 1937 specifically around urban development programs and a lot of it had to do with the health issues in the tenement housing that existed in that somebody got a cold the whole building ended up with pneumonia, hepatitis-C and tuberculosis and so that's why we all have air wells in our SRO (Single Resident Occupancy) buildings and stuff. There was a big strong health aspect to meriting federal funding for affordable housing development. They couple each other just based solely on the economic principles of federal funding does not go to support activities and programs and community efforts that are not generating revenue for corporate America. Bottom line is that it is so universal, it's so across the board, that it was obviously a policy you can see it being implemented in different programs as it's life expands. It's all over the place now. We are mortgaging off public housing. How much more of a commodification statement can you make than to start literally mortgaging off public housing that was created with US tax dollars for the sole purpose of ensuring safe, decent and affordable housing for every American.

Rhodes: What federal programs have replaced the policy of building and maintaining affordable housing?

Boden: As they start deciding to de-fund an activity or program is you always create a smaller version a cheaper micro version of whatever that program was so as they have decided to stop funding public housing wish they decided years ago both maintenance and upkeep and new development and Hope 6 and destroying units and increasing rents - as they started implementing those decisions there's always a strong necessity to pretend like you're still doing something about the lives of the people that you're screwing over. You see it so much in mental health. Residential treatment, which was the solution to the institutionalization - it wasn't putting people on the street and in jail that was the recommended solution to that. As that got dismantled all of these little quasi little semi innocuous little programs started popping up all over the place and all funded by the state because the state was the ones making the deepest cuts. In housing they’re now finding homeless programs. They know goddamn well since they passed McKiney 1987 that homeless programs are being created because we’re cutting affordable housing. That was in all of the testimony was in all of the justification for Reagan of all presidents to sign the McKinney Act. Everybody at the table knew that this was a response to the cuts to affordable housing and now it's the answer to homelessness.


It wasn't a lack of homeless programs that created homelessness it was a decimation and the demolition and the selling off of and the de-funding of our housing programs that created homelessness and now are homeless programs are talking about Housing First with no freaking housing money or redefining when a person is homeless versus when they are poorly housed. So that they can say we are turning away homeless people these people don't qualify for homeless services like it's a freaking welfare program you don't qualify for these services? What the hell? If you're desperate enough to walk up to a shelter and ask for a place to sleep who gives a damn whether or not you qualify. You must been pretty bad freaking shape. Especially if you got your kids in tow. It was the youth and the kids that they are abusing the most with this redefinition. Because they want to focus on single adults. They want to focus on the most visible and this whole funding stream and technical assistance and National Alliance to End Homelessness and Corporation for Supportive Housing and this whole industry gets created around a pretense of addressing the issues that make up the lives of the people that live in our communities in order to justify the neoliberal economic policies that actually drive the decision-making process of the United States government. And it's time to call them on this shit.

Rhodes: Can you describe one or two of these recent federal programs used to address the homeless issue and explain why they never seem to get in the traction they need to end homelessness?

Boden: The most obvious target these days is Housing First which is the one that everybody's hearing about which is the one that when you actually go to look at HUD and look at the federal government's budget and look for the funding stream and the line item, because in the bluebook of the federal government is a line item for every single dollar they spend or allocate. There's no line item for Housing First. Housing First was created in the public relations office. It wasn't created in the funding office. If we really were serious about Housing First we would obviously of course restore the funding for housing. How the hell can you do Housing First without any housing? It just begs itself to the ridiculousness and the lack of depth connected to social policy and public policy issues in the mainstream media that you see and even from the left mainstream media. You see all these articles in The Nation about how great Housing First is. In fact, what they're looking at is the chronic homeless initiative which is single adults only if you been homeless for a certain period time and in SRO hotel buildings that use to house poor people. These are not new constructions. So you take an SRO building in a low income neighborhood, you kick a bunch of poor people out of it, you rehab it, reopen it as a new housing initiative for homeless people and you put all of your finding in all of your priorities geared towards the chronic homeless single adult for one reason and one reason only because they are the most visible. So, in rural communities and in every community where we have massive numbers - we have 1.2 million kids that go to school every day that don't have a home to go to that night but our number one priority is the visible single adult and then we wonder why the numbers of families keep growing and the numbers of teenage suicide and abusw and beatings of homeless people you know continues to just get worse and worse and worse because people are being told one thing, but the reality is something completely different. The days of women and children first are long freaking gone. If HUD had been driving the Titanic, the life raft would've only been filled with single adults so you could say you saved more people. It's it's a recipe for disaster and it's blown up in their face. The other program is point in time headcounts. If you really gave a shit about how many people are homeless in America at any given time or over the course of the year having local communities spend millions and millions of dollars to hire consultants and trainers and staff investing in flashlights, write reports and do all this crap, because they love to study poverty. They love to study racism and they love the study homelessness because they don't have any intention of addressing any of those issues but if you really did give a crap, January 25 once every two years? Go out and count people sleeping in the street. How more blatant and obvious could the pretentiousness behind this possibly be? There is no legitimate interest or intent to get actual numbers. There is a legitimate interest and intent to make it look like you give a shit and you want to get numbers but there is no intent to get numbers that are going to have any meaningful guidance and setting priorities about what's happening in the local community. January 25 and this is national. January 25 in Bozeman Montana in Detroit Michigan in Chicago, in New York and in Portland Oregon. January 25 tends to be pretty freaking cold so to think that going out and counting the numbers of heads of people that you see sleeping in the streets on that night. . . and the most amazing part is those numbers that come out from that process are now the official numbers.

Just like Reagan did wit unemployment when the unemployment numbers were getting too high Reagan's people said well from now on the only people that count as unemployed are in employment programs or getting unemployment benefits otherwise we no longer count those people as being unemployed. And Viola! The numbers of people in America went way down that were unemployed and that's the number we use today. When they talk about 7.9% unemployment or 9.2% unemployment or the unemployment numbers are this or that it's based on that formula. It is not people with no job, it's people that are not in those programs. That's exactly what the point in time headcount is for looking at homelessness in America today.

Rhodes: We are always hearing mostly from right-wing politicians and Fox news that we need to reduce the size of government and live within our budget. This is often used as an argument for why money is not available to address issues like universal healthcare education and the effort to end homelessness. What is your take on that argument?

Boden: I don't think it's that we're hearing it now from right when politicians and Fox news. You go back and look at Reagan speeches leading up to his presidency and the whole time while he was president and then pretty much every single person except maybe Carter, who was before Reagan. Pretty much every single president since then says government is bad, business is good. You look at neoliberal economic policy and writings, they say government is bad, business is good. It is the Reagan revolution. That's what we live under. It is what we have been living under in a progressive state of takeover. Businesses are people now. According to our Supreme Court, according to the ultimate law of the land. Businesses are people and they deserve the attention and access and political clout that supposedly goes to people if you can afford to pay for it. Fox news is an offshoot of that like anytime even if you're talking about a local organizing campaign you create a mission statement what are we doing why we doing this, you set your goals and objectives and you lay out your working plan. Don't think that's not what we're up against. Business Improvement Districts are freaking evil but it doesn't make them stupid and also what I've noticed is when you look at the corporate agenda and when you look at the takeover of a country agenda that were up against its long-term. They’re not thinking 3 to 5 years. I mean they are thinking 3 to 5 years. They have a work plan over the next 3 to 5 years but their goals and objectives are way longer than that. The Supreme Court decision was one step in that process. Getting right Reagan elected was the first step in that process. Convincing everybody and the fact that Democrats are so lame in their defense of what it would be called social programs and they don’t want to say socialism, they don't want to say we have a social agenda we have a social issue there's no social justice because somehow that's bad? Why wouldn’t the United States government want a socially just governance structure? Why wouldn't the government want people to be educated, to be healthy, to be housed and if they really wanted to support a capitalist system to have some freaking money in their pockets? Why is that considered bad? It’s been considered bad because it's been beaten into the heads of all of us for the last 35 years that government bad, business good. So, now our downtowns are public-private partnership's our parks are public private partnership's our public housing is now going to be a public-private partnership, our military and it just goes on and on and on.

There is no legitimate role that government plays and in the lives of the people that we govern, because the only ones that can do it is private industry.

Rhodes: Sometimes rather than addressing the root causes of homelessness cities pass quality-of-life laws to stop homeless people from sleeping or sitting in public, asking for money, pushing shopping carts etc. What do you think is motivating this criminalization of poverty?

Boden: We often use in our organizing, a poster from 1936 that was put out by the mayor of New York, funded by the WPA. They hired a local artist and there's all these images in the middle of the poster of poverty and homelessness and on the top it says “must we always have this with a giant question mark?” Then at the bottom it says “why not housing?” You would never see that today. We have pitched it to everybody that's run for mayor in San Francisco anybody that’s running for mayor that's willing to talk to us. Why is local mayors and state elected officials and State Departments allowing the federal government to just pull out and get the hell out of the social issues of peoples lives - the healthcare, the education, the housing issues of peoples lives. Why are they allowing that to happen and why are we electing people that allow that to happen? Giving a tax break to Twitter to take over a building in a quasi low income neighborhood - in addition to all the tax breaks Twitter is already getting for being in California, from the state, for being Twitter from the feds, from the tax breaks that you get as a business, Jesus lunch - luxury boxes at football games baseball games whatever like we're already giving massive breaks to these guys. And yet local governments looking at thousands of people sleeping in its streets. Well, how are you going to deal with that? You’re going to use your jails. You are going to use your courts. You're going to create laws that say it's illegal to sit down in public space. Everybody's going to sit down in public space you know that I know that they know that everybody knows that. Everybody's going to stand still. Everybody's going to lay down. Everybody at some point in time whether they like it or not is going to go to sleep. Everybody's going to have to eat at some point in time. So we're passing all these laws that makes sitting, standing, sitting, sleeping, laying down, closing our public parks, making it illegal to eat, making it illegal to serve food and everybody in the game knows, just like with Jim Crow laws just like was sundown towns just like with Anti-Okie laws, everybody in the process knows this is about certain people. These are laws that are universal, they are laws, but the application of these laws is about certain people. It has been about Japanese Americans, it has been about African-American, its been mentally ill people it's been about homeless people and again it's about homeless people. But, this has been done against other people. Braceros - people from Mexico, so everybody in the process knows. Local businesses push the creation of local laws that are passed by local government that are signed by local mayors that are enforced by local police and local private security companies that are adjudicated in local courts and people are incarcerated in local jails. It stays in the family and they can do it. They have the legal authority to put in law time, place, and manner restrictions in local communities and public space. So they have the authority, they have the ability, they have the desire, they have the will and apparently because the one thing that every mayor always tells me is I can get police money, I can't get no housing money, I can't get no education money, I can't get no healthcare money but I can get money from cops and now the freaking Pentagon, well not now because this has been going on for a while, but the Pentagon will give you unused military equipment as well.

You know, when they busted the squats in the lower Eastside back in the late 70s it was the first time the Pentagon had given unused or unwanted military equipment to a local police department. They actually showed up in these armored personnel carriers when they were busting those squats.

None of this is new. Anti-Okie laws, sundown towns, Jim Crow and ugly laws - this is not new. It's history repeating itself because while we overturn Jim Crow and while we overturned Anti-Okie we didn't take away the ability for local governments to create and enforce blatantly racist and classiest legal legislation .

Rhodes: Maybe a better question is what can be done to stop this criminalization of the homeless?

Boden: Our attempt, you know what we are going for right now based on 1,300, now it is closer to 1,700, interviews that we have done with people on the streets - you know those things I mentioned the sitting, standing, eating, sleeping, laying down, these are the top three criminal offenses that homeless people of the 1700 that we spoken to and this is by far and away the top three is sleeping standing and sitting. Those are illegal acts if you're perceived to be in a certain class. So were pushing legislation in Oregon and California working with a lot of groups in Colorado working with groups now on a campaign in Washington that says local governments cannot criminalize the act of sleeping, sleeping in a vehicle so long as it's legally parked, sitting, standing, laying down, eating or sharing food. Those are protected acts and cannot be criminalized anymore in the future. Because those are acts that get criminalize that you know everyone's going to violate. So, the fact that we have historically allowed local governments to pass laws to make it illegal to sleep or to sit or to stand still, you know everyone's going to do that so our bill says you can't make those illegal activities anymore. Basically under the assumption that if we build power if we keep working on this because I don't think these bills are going to be easy but nothing worthwhile is and they lose the ability to get rid of us and make us disappear our right to exist gives us power. If you can't say go away disappear I'm closing my eyes I don't want to see you anymore. If you can no longer do that to us, then maybe as human beings you're going to have to start talking to us and you're going to have to start dealing with us as human beings and as people with rights and that I leave here I have a right to be here and we need to figure out how we're going to work together because you no longer have the legal authority to make me disappear

Rhodes: In addition to the Homeless Bill of Rights work, what other efforts are you working on to stop attacks against the homeless and return enough funding for affordable housing to end homelessness?

Boden: To be honest I think one is we need to get a hell of a lot more accountable in who are representatives are. Poor people, homeless people, whatever, like we're being represented by professionals and there's a whole industry and this is the legacy of the war on poverty with 501 c 3's, of which WRAP is one. Foundation, charitable giving, IRS codes, there's so little passion and so little visceral connection. When you get to City Hall then you get to the state and then you get to the federal level the professionalization of who is representing poor people is disgusting and I'm not pointing fingers at anyone. We are obviously a part of that system, but we do street outreach and we do our community forums as an attempt to say this is who were representing so that 1,300 that we have documented, the 1,700 that we have talked to, that sets our priorities. As organizers and as representatives we have no ability to change that. We can’t cut a deal on the Homeless Bill of Rights campaign that doesn't mirror the priorities that were set from the street outreach in the community in the forums we did. We can't do that just by the structure that we set up. I'm telling you man, if you get into DC, if you get into Sacramento, you get into City Hall, that's not standard operating procedure for those that are in their representing poor people. Local politicians, state politicians, national politicians get certificates and awards and plaques and honored at dinner because they can bring in money to the organization. They get technical assistance grants to implement policies that - damn, wait a second I thought you opposed Hope 6, and now you're building a Hope 6 program? How did that happen? That kind of shortsighted self-serving representation of poverty in class and racism in this country has to stop and the only way it's going to stop is if the National Alliance to End Homelessness holds a conference and nobody shows up because nobody wants to hear what they got to say. I'm telling you that ain't going to happen anytime soon. Their conference gets thousands of people because of you want HUD funding you want to be in good with the National Alliance to End Homelessness. That's just how the game is played and so to think that those guys are actually representing with passion and conviction the issues of poor homeless people in their community that their not opposing Feinstein's Homeless Children and Youth Act which would get rid of the redefining family homelessness and youth homelessness so that any family that says I'm homeless is considered homeless. They’re opposing it and calling people poorly housed, so now we have a new category of homeless families there is homeless families and then there's poorly housed families. Then there is extremely low income and extremely, extremely low income or hunger where now is all of these categories of hunger, there are all these categories of poor, all these categories of homeless. Somebody is benefitting within each of those categories areas like those things don't just happen on their own and they happen because we let it happen and we let other people define us, we let poverty pimps pimp off us, we let politicians use us and fund us and then de-fund us when we piss them off.

We allow that to happen and until we decide to stop allowing that to happen it's going to continue to happen and I think by the time you get to the point where you're freaking homeless, what else are they going to do? What you got to lose? Your homeless. So when you start fighting back at that level anything, the fact that we even have a punk little office is a hell of a lot more than we had when we started. We got nothing to lose because the very worst that can happen is we end up back where we were when we started in the first place and that is just the way it is. But, I don't think most organizers are organizations representing communities understand the power inherent in that statement that you have to organize like you’ve got nothing to lose, so you just tell the truth. If you tell the truth you never have to remember what you said and you can just keep saying it.

The Street Sheet (homeless newspaper) just turned 25 years old a couple of months ago and I was looking at a video, a documentary that was done about the Street Sheet in 1992. It was amazing, the things that people are saying are exactly the things we are saying today. Somebody said “wow, that’s too bad,” and I was like “I don't think so, because we haven't won yet.” The fact that it's different, not totally different people - it was cool to see how many were still around, but several had died and several had moved on. But, they were talking the same smack were talking today and with the same spirit and with the same accountability that were talking today and I think that's an amazing testament 25 years later that it is that ingrained. Everybody uses their own words but the spirit in the intent and the accountability behind what was being said is exactly the same thing that were saying today.

Rhodes: Paul, you have just written a book, House Keys not Handcuffs. Tell me what the book is about.

Boden: It's about, and actually the full title of the book is House Keys not Handcuffs, Homeless Organizing, Art and Politics in San Francisco and Beyond, because the book is about after 30 years it was like an idea of doing an art book and honoring my 30 years, blah, blah, blah and it just didn't feel right. So, Art Hazelwood, Bob Prentice and a bunch other people got together and - this is a collection of essays. It's three essays one long-winded one from me about the last 30 years of organizing in San Francisco and what we were trying to accomplish and why we did the stuff that we did at the Homeless Coalition and Hospitality House and other places. When we started in the early 80s, coming out of Hospitality House, me and my friends like we knew that we weren't doing something new. But, there was all these people that want to train us and tell us how many copies of Rules for Radicals I received back in them days, it could have built us a house. But, they weren’t talking to us the way that I'm hoping this comes across to people that are thinking about doing stuff. This speaks from the heart to the heart. How you do it, that's your stuff. There is no Robert’s Rules of Order and all that crap. People don't need to hear that. People get involved in doing organizing work from their heart and so to reinforce that and validate that and to give warnings about the power of money and how you deal with money before you have it so that when it does come it doesn't take over you, but you control it. The power of accountability the ability to say we. My first comment when somebody comes to me and says that we think this, is who is we? I only see you. Show me your street outreach, show me what you've done, validate who we is before you start saying the homeless this or the homeless that.

Don't think you gonna when. On the back of the book we have a photo of a direct action and the quote on it is that it is not important whether you win or lose it's important that you put up the fight. That you were willing to stand for something and fight for it and that you're willing to lick your wounds and fight again tomorrow. That's what's important. That's 10 times more important than “did I win?” Because if you keep doing that eventually you will win. If what is important about the fight is winning the fight then get into boxing or play football or play a game, but in social policy and social justice campaigns winning the fight isn't the issue, fighting the fight is the issue and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. That's how it goes. Mostly you lose, certainly on homeless stuff mostly you lose, but that's not the priority. The priority is that you were willing to fight. So, that is what the first essay is about.

The second essay is about how artwork plays such a vital role in that and there are 67 images in the book, because everything WRAP touches is about art as our voice as our messaging tool. It is about how we've used in learned and gotten better at creating and using artwork over the years as part of an organizing and public education campaign.

The third essay is from an awesome dude named Bob Prentice who was the first Homeless Czar in San Francisco back in Agnos’s era. This essay is about how it was perceived and how it played out and how it looked and how he was able to support and how important it was to have a non-government funded, no holds barred, unafraid, relentless organizing campaign so that he could from the inside of government use that to advance more humane policies and more humane programing. It's an interesting way of giving different perspectives and not claiming to give a history lesson because I couldn't remember everyone's name I couldn't remember every group that was involved. As we say in the book, the first lesson of this book is if you want to write a book like this start documenting your stuff in the beginning. Because going back 30 years later and thinking you're giving a history lesson is just BS. You ain’t. You're giving a perspective and so what I could speak to with out any fear or hesitation is the spirit behind what we were doing and how we hold ourselves accountable.

Rhodes: In your experience what organizing models work best to build a movement to protect homeless people's rights in and shift priorities at the national level so there's enough affordable housing to end homelessness?

Boden: As soon as we get to that point I'll let you know what organizing methodology we used because - I can speak to the one that were using now which is about creating 133 organizations in five states that are all working together to try to do some kick ass stuff. It hasn't protect people's rights at this point and it hasn’t restored affordable housing funding. I wish and what I love about what both working now with Colorado and Washington is there first thing they're doing is street outreach. I think that's vital. I think if you if you were a union organizer at a plant and you had never talked to anybody in that plant you probably would not be seen as all that good of a union organizer. I hate when I hear homeless organizers say that “you just can't motivate people.” Really? That has not been my experience. It is what are you asking people to do in order to be involved because everybody likes to be involved in something bigger than themselves. Everybody likes it. Whether they are homeless or not. The other point would be, I don't care if you’ve been homeless. If you're doing street outreach and you're documenting what homeless people say and then we're going through those responses and we're putting them into our forms, it doesn't matter if you been homeless or not because you aren’t representing homelesspeople. The people you spoke to are representing homeless people.

I used to write in all of our grants anti-leadership training and none of the foundations would fund it. Finally one of the staff people said “Paul, leave the program exactly as you have it, just stop calling it that.” But, my point was that homeless people in poor people got way too many freaking leaders as it is. What they don't have is somebody to clean the bathroom, somebody to dig the trench and actually create a foundation so that we can build off of that foundation and I think the best organizing the cleanest organizing the most helpful long-term organizing is to be a laborer to the movement not a leader of the movement. Then I think you start seeing progress. Again, going back to that whole corporate neoliberal crap, thinking long-term and if you think you're going to start doing this and you're going to be the next Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King didn't create the movement the movement created Martin Luther King. Malcolm X didn't create Islam. These guys didn't create these movements these movements created these guys and you got to think of it that way and you have to say my job and this is to be digging the trench and making sure the walls don’t fall in and making sure that when we pour the concrete it's going to settle right and it's gonna work. So the next generation can lay the flooring. The next generation can put up the walls. By the end of the process people will live in a really beautiful house but if no one lays the foundation and digs the ditch, that house is never going to be worth standing. Mitch Snyder did not end homelessness. Get over it and stop looking for a freaking leader. Start looking for laborers and if you're looking for laborers we are 133 organizations that are digging ditches and so you can just join us.

For more information about the Western Regional Advocacy Project, contact them at:

Western Regional Advocacy Project
2940 16th Street, Suite 200-2
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415.621.2533
Email: wrap [at]
§Paul Boden
by Mike Rhodes
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