Our mass outreach season is in full swing! Our leaders have been traveling across Baltimore and the state of Maryland to learn more about the issues impacting poor communities. Using our Projects of Survival Survey, we’re canvassing public housing complexes, food pantries, health clinics, churches, and other places to listen to people’s needs and to find ways of pushing back. And by exposing and documenting the issues impacting poor people across Maryland, this work will inform our decision about a campaign that will unite and grow our base statewide. We know that the only way to end poverty is to unite the poor across racial, geographic, partisan, and other historic lines of division. In this e-alert, we’ll share what we’ve learned from our outreach so far and our upcoming outreach days.
Reporting From the Field: August/September
We are in the middle of our base building season. This means our base building team is organizing projects of survival and zeroing in on points of entry where our base either lives or gathers to get their needs met. These pictures were taken from two outreach activities in Western Maryland.
In this first picture, Michael Coleman and Shirley Eatmon are reviewing a list of addresses of people whose landlords are taking them to court. In other words, these are people at risk of being evicted and losing their homes.
That day Shirley and Michael visited with several households in this situation including a visit with this couple. One tenant was facing eviction after falling behind on her rent when she had to cover the costs of burying her young son. Another couple was in the process of applying for emergency rental assistance but hadn't been able to get their landlord to participate- a needed step to receive the assistance. In these cases we were able to over the course of the week work with the tenants to help resolve their cases with the landlord and avoid eviction. That was last week. This week's cases of people having to go to rent court grew from 8 to 42. We are thinking about how this Project of Survival can expand and train other key organizers in Carroll as well as think about how we protest these violations of people's right to housing.
We also traveled to Cumberland to work with several of our base building team on following up with residents who we met at a food pantry the week prior. Our home visits revealed people experiencing homelessness, inadequate health care, and working jobs that did not pay enough to make ends meet. The picture featured here is of Todd Cherkis and Vicki who along with Connie shared struggles around how to care for family members who have become homeless.
Closer to Home
In addition to our outreach across the state, we’re also doing outreach closer to home. Just a few blocks from our office on Kirk Ave is the Donald Bentley food pantry, open every Saturday to serve the growing number of people unable to afford to meet their most basic needs. Most people arrive at the pantry on foot from the surrounding community, but since the pandemic more people have been arriving in cars from across the city. We set up a table by the exit and had conversations over bagels, coffee, and donuts. People were taking interest in United Workers before we’d even set up our canopy. One woman shared that she was paying $400 a month to live in what she described as a “closet”, and was facing a rent hike to $650 that she didn’t think she’d be able to afford. Another gentleman, who worked for an investment firm managing over a trillion dollars, had been priced out of New York and was still struggling to make ends meet in Baltimore after several rent increases. Whether it was rent, medical debt, unemployment, or other issues, people felt they were being squeezed and knew that action must be taken. As we follow up on our day of outreach, we’ll be inviting these folks into our movement so we can take action together.
Join our Upcoming Outreach Days!
Check out our Blog page to read past editions of our e-alerts.
We need to build a mass movement of working class people to end poverty, and we need your help to do it. If you’d like to support our work by volunteering your time and skills, please reach out to us at [email protected] to get involved in our ongoing campaigns. You can also support us by clicking the button below and donating to United Workers. Your financial support will contribute to us becoming independently sustained by our base of members, family, and friends.