Tonight, Friday March 9th, a group of homeless and housed occupiers met in a cold, slowly flooding park, to kick off our campaign for women’s shelter in Austin, TX. Due to cold, cold, rain and soggy shoes, those of of that made it set up camp in front of the Austin Convention Center. With South By South West Interactive camping inside we demonstrated to “South By Shelter Women”, with an example of the city’s current solution to the housing crisis, an illegal tent in the rain.
Currently, the shortage of shelter beds hits women hard, with only a handful set aside for women without kids who are not escaping domestic violence. The rumor is that existing shelters started keeping track of the numbers of women they turn away only since our working group formed.
In our first meetings as a working group it became obvious to us that this was a deeply felt need as women in our group told their stories of the violence they had experienced while living on the streets. One told a story of being cut across her face with a knife while looking for a place to bed down overnight. She said she had never been afraid of being attacked when she had housing. Another told of the violence of being forced to sleep outside in bushes and parking garages. The demand for women’s shelter clearly is a life and death issue for people forced into the streets.
We had planned a silent march through downtown, to set up camp and rally at some of the many institutions that manage the lives of the poor. We plan to march again! We plan to amplify voices of women and others experiencing life on the streets of Austin.
We demand women’s shelter, an end to the ordinances which police the poor, and an end to homelessness.