Federal protection against housing evictions has expired and local and state governments are not stepping up to fill in the gap leaving tens of millions of families vulnerable to homelessness during this growing pandemic and deep recession. In Philadelphia and across the country families, out of desperation, are taking over empty publicly-owned housing. It is estimated that there are up to ten vacant homes for every homeless person. We speak with Cheri Honkala of the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights campaign about the practicalities of housing takeovers from identifying empty houses to how to turn on the utilities and talk to police. Honkala has decades of experience in this and other necessary actions to survive in poverty in the United States.
Cheri Honkala is an American anti-poverty advocate, co-founder of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU) and co-founder and National Coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. She has been a noted advocate for human rights in the United States and internationally. She is the mother of actor Mark Webber. She was featured prominently in the 1997 book Myth of the Welfare Queen by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Zucchino. In 2011, Honkala was the Green Party candidate for Sheriff of Philadelphia, running on the promise of refusing to evict families from their homes. She was the Green Party’s nominee for vice-president in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.