Other Group

National Union of the Homeless (NUH)

Website:

nationalunionofthehomeless.org/

Type:

Other Group

Founded:

1985

Founder:

Chris Sprowal

The National Union of the Homeless (NUH) is an informal chapter-based organization that campaigns for wealth redistribution to fund public housing for all people living in poverty. It organizes homeless people to be the face of its protests and campaigns. [1]

NUH solicits donations, but as an unincorporated organization, it is not obligated to reveal who its donors are, how it spends its money, or any other financial information. [2] Its website also does not reveal who organizes the national organization or any guidance on forming local chapters. [3]

History

The National Union of the Homeless was formed in 1985 to organize homeless people and liberal activists to campaign in support of increased spending on public housing programs. Its campaigns advocated for wealth redistribution to fund public housing. [4]

NUH was founded by left-wing activist Chris Sprowal, originally created as a regional organization named the Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Union of the Homeless before expanding into a national, chapter-based organization. Upon the Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Union of the Homeless initial convention, it attracted 400 so-called “homeless delegates,” as well as religious, labor union, and political leaders, to lead the campaign for left-wing housing policy. [5]

At its peak in the 1990s, NUH had 25 local chapters with over 35 thousand members. It organized protests, consisting of activists and homeless people, criticizing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for keeping HUD-owned housing vacant and preventing homeless people from living in them. NUH founders increased what historians described as a “militant” takeover of HUD-owned vacant properties after the department failed to make units available. NUH activists also managed to secure funding for private philanthropy owned homeless shelters. [6]

NUH became known for organizing homeless people to be the leaders and representatives of its campaigns. Its slogan was, “You are only one paycheck away from homelessness.” It trained homeless people and activists to organize protests, to learn how to take over vacant houses for shelters, and to raise both public and private funding for homeless shelters and public housing. [7]

NUH dissolved in the late 1990s due to a lack of centralization. Leaders from NUH went on to work for A National Call for Moral Revival, the Kairos Center, the Poor People’s Campaign, and the University of the Poor. [8]

In 2019, at a Poor People’s Campaign convention, it voted to recreate the NUH and organized 10 local chapters nationwide. It has since supported the Poor People’s Campaign’s work, campaigning for left-of-center housing policy. [9]

Activities

In 2020, the California chapter of the National Union of the Homeless worked with the Poor People’s Campaign to help win a $300,000 settlement between the City of Maryville and Yuba County for seized and damaged property of homeless encampments during their eviction. Both organizations also supported the takeover of vacant properties by people in Los Angeles and Oakland, California. [10]

In April 2022, the Atlanta, Georgia chapter of NUH organized a homeless encampment to form in front of Atlanta City Hall to protest homelessness in Atlanta and advocate for wealth redistribution to fund public housing for all homeless people. At first, police were ordered to forcibly remove the encampment, but after police declined to act, the city paid for members of the protests to stay at a motel for a month as a compromise for not finding other housing solutions. [11]

References

  1. Graceffo, Loretta. “’You Only Get What You’re Organized to Take’ – Lessons from the National Union of the Homeless.” Waging Nonviolence, October 8, 2021. https://wagingnonviolence.org/2021/10/national-union-of-the-homeless/. ^
  2. “Donate.” Donate to NUH. Accessed August 8, 2022. https://nationalunionofthehomeless.org/donate/. ^
  3. “National Union of the Homeless.” National Union of the Homeless. Accessed August 8, 2022. https://nationalunionofthehomeless.org/#locals. ^
  4. “National Union of the Homeless.” National Union of the Homeless. Accessed August 8, 2022. https://nationalunionofthehomeless.org/. ^
  5. Graceffo, Loretta. “’You Only Get What You’re Organized to Take’ – Lessons from the National Union of the Homeless.” Waging Nonviolence, October 8, 2021. https://wagingnonviolence.org/2021/10/national-union-of-the-homeless/. ^
  6. Graceffo, Loretta. “’You Only Get What You’re Organized to Take’ – Lessons from the National Union of the Homeless.” Waging Nonviolence, October 8, 2021. https://wagingnonviolence.org/2021/10/national-union-of-the-homeless/. ^
  7.  McNeill, Emily. “The National Union of the Homeless A Brief History.” Poverty Initiative, July 2011. https://social-ecology.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Breif-history-of-National-Union-of-Homeless.pdf ^
  8. “National Union of the Homeless.” National Union of the Homeless. Accessed August 8, 2022. https://nationalunionofthehomeless.org/. ^
  9. Theoharis, Rev. Dr. Liz. “The Revival of the National Union of the Homeless.” The Nation, March 30, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/society/national-homeless-union/. ^
  10. Theoharis, Rev. Dr. Liz. “The Revival of the National Union of the Homeless.” The Nation, March 30, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/society/national-homeless-union/. ^
  11. Hernandez, Estevan. “Atlanta Homeless Union Resists Police Sweep and Win Month’s Stay at Hotel.” Liberation News, February 14, 2022. https://www.liberationnews.org/atlanta-homeless-union-resists-police-sweep-and-win-months-stay-at-hotel/. ^
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