Activist and homeless community members in Madison, Wisconsin, are in the process of building housing for the homeless. The effort grew from the dispersed Occupy Wall Street movement, which has taken a shift from political, to community action in the past few years.
The new community is still a work in progress, but there is already a set of three finished homes on the privately owned lot. This week, four people will move into the first homes on the land, and there are 6 more homes being built which should be completed sometime in the spring.
The project began when the police shut down the original Occupy Madison encampments back in 2011. The Madison encampment, like many other Occupy Wall Street sites throughout the country, became a safe haven for the homeless people in the city. When the encampments were shut down, the help that they were providing to the homeless was also shut down.
“We had all these people, about 80 to 100, that were stuck with no place to go. In Madison there’s no legal place to sleep outdoors, and you get 60 to 90 days in the shelter — after that you’re on your own. We tried to stay together, we said if we had our own land perhaps we would be able to make a solution out of it,” Luca Clemente, a representative for Occupy Madison, told Al Jazeera.
“We were left with more flexible, pragmatic, non-ideological people who were committed to the idea of ‘Tell me about your life, your needs, how you are suffering, how you are thriving,’ and I’ll tell you mine and we’ll figure out how we can help each other. Occupy Madison evolved into a group based on human solidarity — we don’t care if your democrat or republican. The point is do you want to come together to cooperate, to pool your resources, creativity and physical labor to make each other’s lives better,” Clemente added.
Clemente told Al Jazeera that everyone who is now living in the homes actually had a hand in working on the project.
As a friend, supporter, and also a critic of the occupy wall street movement over the past few years, it has been exciting and interesting to see the movement transform and grow into many different branches that are taking a more local and decentralized approach than we saw from the protests last year.
Recently, I have been noticing that various pockets of occupy wall street are beginning to practice agorism, and starting projects that hope to replace inefficient state programs with their own voluntary mutual aid approaches. The building of these homes are a great example of agorism in action.
For those of you that are not familiar with the term “agorism”, it is a strategy of noncompliance that uses counter economics and underground markets as a way of keeping power in the hands of the average people, thus slowly diminishing the power and relevance of the control structure.
Growing food, starting mutual aid or charity groups, using bitcoin, homeschooling, running a small business without licenses, bartering and starting community currencies are all examples of agorist activities. Some agorists are even so bold as to create businesses that will challenge existing state monopolies, like we saw earlier this year when Detroit residents created their own community protection agencies because the police were no longer responding to 911 calls.
It is as simple as finding a need in your community for a particular good or service, and attempting to provide that value without any sort of interaction with the government or any other unchosen 3rd parties. In other words, the basic idea is to try solving the problem yourself, with your community instead of waiting around for a politician to make the problem worse.
John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.