End of the Year Report and thoughts for 2011
Dear Friends, Supporters, and Detractors,
As we look back and look forward at this time of year, I have many thoughts. It has been both a difficult year and a blessed and successful year.
had, myself, the Refuge, and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights
Campaign, many trials, struggles and successes. This year we witnessed
many exciting things in relation to seeing the Poor, the Unemployed, and
the homeless being encouraged and empowered.
the winter, we saw the 3rd anniversary of the horrific act of the
slashing of the tents, that the homeless lived in, at the hands of the
Police and the city. We rallied members of the homeless community in
remembrance of that event. The Poor People’s Campaign also met in
different regions of the South to organize for the Poor People’s "March
to Fulfill the Dream". To continue in Dr. King’s legacy. This spring saw
a well attended conference on Social Justice with local organizers,
which included talks from Cheri Honkala of PPEHRC and Shane Claiborne.
During Cheri’s time here, we organized rallies, direct actions, and a
march to speak against the city of St. Petersburg’s oppression of the
poor and homeless.
This past summer, saw many important activities, including the Poor
People’s March from New Orleans to Detroit. Hundreds participated in
this march, including 20 currently and formerly homeless from the Tampa
Bay area. Food and Clothing distributions, rallies, and Marches
happened during this time. The March culminated in attendance and
leadership at the US Social Forum, where more than 20,000 people
attended and rallied around Social Justice issues, in Detroit. We also
participated and organized in both the Cornerstone Festival and the
Harvest Gathering in the Summer and Fall.
This Fall and Winter, again saw more activities as well. These
activities included, planning events, conferences and protests around
the RNC coming to the Tampa area in 2012. It also included a March and
Rally on December 10th on International Human Rights Day. The March,
dubbed a March of the Unemployed, The Homeless, and The Poor for Human
Rights, Jobs, and Housing, had over 250 in attendance, with great
coverage by the media. Many of those marching were college and high
school aged individuals. At this rally we spoke out against the
proposed use of a Jail annex as a homeless shelter, where homeless
individuals will be forced to got to. Also, at the Rally, dinner was
served to all in need, including many homeless individuals. Personal
items, such as toothpaste and socks were distributed as well. Cheri
Honkala of the Poor People’s Campaign came to March and Rally and spoke
as well. We had participation by several organizations, including the
Refuge, The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, Living Water
Ministries, St. Pete For Peace, We Are Change, and several local
Intentional Communities. During this Christmas and Thanksgiving, food
and toys were distributed to needy families, with much support and
thanks to the Rock and Blues Academy, for their support of these events.
We also participated in, with St. Pete For Peace, a David Rovics
concert with local favorite Dave Shepherd, at Cafe Bohemia.
course, throughout the year, the Refuge supported people in need on a
daily basis with financial help to families and individuals, counseling,
spiritual support/Bible studies, food and clothing distribution,
medical support, and transportation. None of this, or anything we have
done could have happened without God’s blessings and the generous, and
sometimes sacrificial support of our donors and supporters. Some of you,
I know, gave beyond the call of duty! And, for the that and all that is
good that happened this year, we thank God!
However, this was also a very difficult and trying year. On a personal
level, I continue to struggle with being "couch" homeless and now have
no health insurance. I also have had my computer crashed several times,
my identity stolen, my car was arsoned, harassment from local
authorities, false accusations, and a harassing visit from the
Government. The homeless and poor, locally, continue to be harassed by
the City of St. Pete, Mayor Foster, and local Police for simply being
poor. This included new anti-homeless laws, and a new effort to
criminalize the homeless and poor by coercing and forcing them to go to a
so called "shelter" at the Jail annex. Of course racism and homophobia
continue to be a problem in our community. And, the Tampa Bay area now
has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country and 14%
unemployment. On the national level, our economy continues in crisis,
with the rich keep getter richer and the poor keep getter poorer, with
average CEO’s getting 450 times the average workers salary. We continue
to fight costly wars financially, humanly,emotionally, and spiritually.
As Dr. King said, "Any nation that would spend more on military and war
then Programs of Social Uplift is in danger of Spiritual Death".
This New Year, will bring many new struggles. We must organize and
support an alternative space run by the homeless to protect them from
the onslaught of the City, the County, and Law enforcement. We must not
let them force the homeless to go to this "Safe Harbor" at the Jail
annex. Also, we must continue to organize against the wars and global
corporate Capitalism. The Economy continues to go downward, and we must
organize foreclosure resistance, housing takeovers, direct action and
alternative economies. We will continue to see homelessness rise. The
St. Pete Times has said that we now have 23,000 homeless in the bay
anyone has property to donate or lease at a low cost, or if you know
someone, please let us know. We are also in need of a van, a new laptop,
video cameras and cameras, also audio/visual equipment. Of course, we
also need blankets, canned goods and non-perishables for our pantry, and
financial support. We also are in need of volunteers, particularly
those who would commit overnight vigils with the homeless, on the
street, to monitor harassment. If you can help us with financial
support, please send checks to the Refuge 1818 29th Ave.North, St.
Petersburg, Florida 33713. You can also give on line at www.refugestpete.org. If you have questions, please call me at 727 278 1547. For more info about Poor People’s Campaign go to www.economichumanrights.org. Info. about organizing go to www.facebook.com/creatingcommunityandrevolution. And, finally photos and video about March in St. Petersburg go to www.stpeteforpeace.org and go to icon for march.
Many thanks to all you who believe in us and have a Blessed and Happy New Year,
Rev. Bruce Wright
PS. PLEASE CONSIDER A YEAR END GIFT AS WE HAVE AN IMMEDIATE NEED WITH 2 FAMILIES TO RAISE ABOUT $400