Militant Journalism

Tacoma, Wash., struggle: ‘We won’t stop until everyone is housed!’

Update: On Dec. 30, Fife police came into the Travelodge and evicted the 43 homeless residents. Residents gathered up their belongings and left, some to return to their camp; others accepted shelter placement. No arrests were made, though Fife police are continuing to “investigate” the occupation as a criminal matter. Fife City Manager Hyun Kim had previously told organizers that hotel vouchers would be provided to the Travelodge residents; instead, a non-profit organization offered 10 “tiny homes” to house 43 people, most of whom do not qualify for tiny homes which are supposed to be for couples and people with children. Despite the eviction, the intervention and threatening behavior of armed rightwingers and the discovery that several residents and supporters had tested positive for COVID-19, organizers view the occupation as a victory in that it brought 43 people in from the cold for six nights.

“They are leaving us in the gutter and something’s got to give. I am only staying strong because of my family in the streets. We need to stand together with one big voice,” said Nana, who is staying at the Port of Tacoma motel across from the Travelodge in Fife, Wash., the site of a direct action struggle to provide emergency pandemic housing to homeless people. She and a friend came over to the Dec. 28 gathering at the Travelodge ready to sign up and join the struggle which has been developing since Dec. 24. 

On Christmas Eve the Tacoma Housing Now coalition moved a group of homeless people into the Travelodge. The motel had many vacancies. 

On Dec. 25, organizers told the owner that they were not going to continue paying. A large group of supporters gathered outside the motel and held a holiday party. 

The owner of the motel negotiated with the activists and agreed to allow them to stay until Dec. 28.  He also stated his desire to provide emergency pandemic housing to homeless people and struggle along with THN to be paid by the city or county for this service. 

On Dec. 26, about 50 supporters celebrated this victory and rallied next to the motel. 

On Dec. 28, as the number of homeless people staying in the motel increased, even more supporters coming from Portland, Olympia and Seattle, as well as Tacoma, gathered at the south end of the motel parking lot. At about 10:20 a.m., the Fife chief of police arrived and talked to THN organizers. As reported to the crowd, the police chief said he wanted to resolve the situation and find another place for the homeless residents of the Travelodge. Supporters shouted out that this could be a ruse to get people to leave the motel and that nobody should exit until they had room keys in hand for a new location. 

Supporters had shown up prepared to block an eviction but it looked like the people at the motel had won at least one more day. THN organizer Arrow stated: “Our first goal in this action was to keep these folks out of the cold — some of whom have serious medical conditions and for whom we care very deeply. We only expected to get one day and now we are on day four. Goal number two has been to get the owner paid by the city to provide emergency pandemic housing.”

Arrow explained that Tacoma Housing Now has other demands, including the creation of a Community Land Trust to turn city-owned land into housing for the houseless and to defund the police and use that money to meet peoples’ needs. 

Banshee from THN explained, “We are working to get FEMA or CARES money to pay the hotel owner, but we won’t stop until everyone is housed!”

As it appeared that it would not be necessary to block an eviction that morning, organizers again held an informal speak out. Liberation News was there and spoke to participants. 

Nolan and his father were standing on the sidewalk of Pacific Highway (Hwy 99) outside the motel holding signs reading, “Housing is a human right.” Asked what his message was, Nolan stated, “The city needs to do a lot more. We need to demand a lot more.” 

Commiserating over our cold hands, Paul told Liberation News, “It’s cold out here but I’m using this as motivation, remembering what it was like when I was homeless. People can die outside; I’ve known people who have frozen to death.”

“This whole colonial system is ass-backwards, pardon my language. We’re creating a new society based on kindness and Indigenous principles,” said Greg Urquhart of the Eastern Band of Cherokees to the crowd. He sang the Puyallup Victory Song. “If we work together we will have victory,” he said in introducing the song. 

Follow Tacoma Housing Now on Facebook for updates. Supporters are asked to gather by 10 a.m. on Dec. 29.

Use this phone script to call Tacoma and Pierce County elected officials.

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