The Church Council's Sandy Brown and Seattle Office of Housing's Adrienne Quinn are co-chairing the organizing committee, and there is said to be a huge amount of latitude in creating the goals and outcomes for the conference. While I'm satisfied that this is being driven locally and not from DC, organizing for this has intentionally been below radar, and that's set off some alarms for people. If we're really about building a movement to end homelessness, we need more transparency and discussion and less secrecy and control.
That said, here's some stuff for conference organizers to consider, since they never asked.
- Churches have been doing this work for a long time, and in most cases don't have a lot of resources themselves. Whatever thoughts people are having about churches being the backbone of the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness needs a serious reality check. Earth to CEHKC: The mainline churches are in decline and mostly composed of those old enough to have voted for Kennedy. The evangelicals are interested in other things and the mega-churches have perverted Jesus into some kind of an Amway salesman for God, where if you pray hard enough, you'll be rewarded with a new Ford Explorer. This strategy has its limits.
- The Bush administration is engaged in a structural reassignment of responsibility for managing the wreckage of robber baron capitalism, and they're not it. But they love churches. Love, love, love. And Phil Mangano's got that God-talk thing down cold. It's a great system. Untrammeled capitalism creates, figuratively speaking, a never ending stream of lepers, and the church folk get to line up to wash their feet. Everyone wins. The rich get richer, the faithful get an in with God, and some of the lepers get clean feet. End unfair but hopefully thought-provoking metaphor.
- Exactly when was it that everyone turned into a total chicken shit and stopped talking about raising hell to end poverty? The Ten Year Plan, until people get a backbone and start getting real about poverty and the role of federal policy in creating inequality, is not "ending homelessness." It's managing homelessness at a higher level of sophistication with fewer government resources.
- Ending homelessness will take new federal priorities, and that's a long hard fight that too few are talking about. The fact that we've allowed a fast-talking, disingenuous, refugee from a community theater production of The Music Man who also happens to be a shill for the Bush Administration to become the national spokesperson for "ending homelessness" is the saddest commentary on what homeless advocacy has become that I can possibly imagine. Mitch Snyder is spinning in his grave.
If Fannie Mae wants to pay to convene a conference, we should use it to talk about how the movement to end homelessness has been co-opted by bureaucrats and rendered about as politically threatening as a newborn kitten. We can hold the conference at a Catholic church. Then we can all make our confessions and do some penance by getting off our safe and complacent asses to do some real organizing.