Thursday, September 22, 2016

Renters’ Rights Day of Action

Memphis demands affordable, accessible and integrated housing

Allison Donald speaks at the rally
Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (HOPE) assembled an action to promote Renters’ civil rights in the Memphis area and to work to produce real options for homeless individuals. The group rallied at Morris Park just after noon, a block away from the Memphis Housing Authority. HOPE lead a march to the door of the Housing Authority and demanded action by the new administrator.

“People with disabilities that need housing stand with the LGBTQ community, women, and others for housing justice in Memphis,” said Allison Donald of the Memphis Center for Independent Living who spoke at the rally. “We demand affordable, accessible and integrated housing.”

The group secured a meeting with the Memphis Housing Authority Executive Director Marcia Lewis who came out of the office to meet the group. Tony, a HOPE member, read the demands to Director Lewis in front of the MHA offices. HOPE activists held signs and chanted in the background.

“At the rally I learned that there are several people that don’t have access to a homeless shelter,” said Tim Redd of the Memphis Center for Independent Living. “Single mothers,  members of the LGBTQ community  and people with disabilities. I learned that for years HOPE has been advocating for the homeless.”
People marching with signsThe event ended in with the group returning to Morris Park and enjoying a picnic in the shade.

"While attending The Renters Day of Action it dawned on me how much people with and without disabilities are fighting for the same things,” said Bobbie Fields of MCIL. “We all would like to have easy access to the basic needs of life, housing, transportation, food and social events."

Woman hold sign that says We are HOPE

Text of the HOPE letter:

Thursday, Sept. 22nd 2016

To: Marcia Lewis
Executive Director
Memphis Housing Authority
CC. Mayor Jim Strickland

Ms. Lewis,
We hope this letter finds you well and in good health, today members of Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality, H.O.P.E. left his letter and a request for a meeting at your office.

We are a grassroots organization made up exclusively of men and women who are formerly or currently experiencing homelessness in the city of Memphis. Many of our members have or are also tenants at some of Memphis Site Based Section 8 apartment complexes as well and as such we have many concerns that we would like to be able to share with you. We come today as part of a nation wide day of action for renters rights and housing justice with the Homes for All campaign and the Right to The City Alliance and have included the national coalitions list of demands inside. As Memphis has 55 units of affordable housing for every 100 qualified low income applicants, we see housing as the most pressing issue our community For the remaining purposes of this letter we wish to speak to local matters.


A. Memphis has no free shelters for men, less than 70 beds for women experiencing homelessness that are not for domestic violence or drug rehab, we have cases in some shelters where women are sexually harassed and access to shelter is tied to sexual exploitation. We have no shelter for the LGBT community and we have slumlords that economically exploit our people via taking their food stamps, work shelters that fail to pay a living wage and none of our shelters are 100% compliant with the AMERICAS WITH DISABILITIES ACT.

B.We call on the city of Memphis to create a new city run, free shelter for people experiencing homelessness, which is fully compliant with the ADA and provides shelter without religious mandates and is open to all of our people.

C. We call on the city of Memphis to enact an ordinance for minimum standards for all shelters including transparency and accountability to the consumer, ADA compliance new standards for sexual misconduct, standards for staff training and ethics and the creation of an oversight board within the executive branch made up of those currently and formerly unsheltered which will provide oversight into allegations of misconduct within shelters.

D. We call on Mayor Jim Strickland to DELAY the demolition of Foote Homes until after the promised 448 NEW units of HUD subsidized housing replacing Warren and Tulane are online.

E. We call for the adoption of the recommendations of the 2014 the Memphis Multifamily Housing Strategy report commissioned by the City of Memphis. F. We call for the Reserve Code Officer program training to include a section on apartment complexes and that the City work with Tenant Associations to recruit teams of tenants at all of Memphis Site Based Section 8 complexes for training and recruitment into the RCO program.

G. The Beers Van Gogh Peer Center is set to close and residents are being told that they will have to find another place to live. Beers Van Gogh provides housing and services for 10 unsheltered individuals who have disabilities. These people are losing their housing via no fault of their own and we call on the city to take action to rehouse them.

Ms Lewis, we appreciate all your efforts during the situations leading up to the relocations at the Warren and Tulane apartments and believe your experience at HUD in your former position gives you special insight in how systemic reforms can be enacted most effectively.

We seek to have our leadership meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss these matters and how we can collectively move this city forward. Thank you and have a blessed day.

Toni Whitfield
Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality

Tamara Hendricks
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center
3573 Southern, Memphis,TN. 38111