Statement of MIT/RLS Global Convergence on Evictions and Displacement Conference Participants to State and City Leaders Regarding the Long Island Shelter Crisis
We, the undersigned, practitioners and researchers in the fields of housing and land rights and human settlements, gathered this weekend at MIT for a Global Conference on Strategies Against Evictions and Displacement, are deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis caused by the October 8 shutdown of Long Island shelters and programs in Boston Harbor serving 700 of the Boston area’s most vulnerable people. The lack of notice, the failure to provide adequate alternative shelter, the abrupt termination of services for people in recovery, the ongoing separation of displacees from their possessions, and continual affronts to human dignity and safety constitute gross violations of globally recognized human rights, including the rights to adequate housing, health, personal security, and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
We call on leaders in Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to declare an immediate State of Emergency to prioritize resources to resolve this crisis. We urge an immediate, transparent and inclusive dialogue with those displaced to engage them in decisions that affect their lives and to develop solutions. We urge local authorities to commit resources for permanent and transitional housing that meet global standards of decent, safe and healthy housing appropriate to the needs of affected vulnerable populations.
While plans for additional recovery and shelter beds on the Boston mainland are welcome and should continue, the area’s evident need for even more than were temporarily lost at Long Island suggests that urgent steps should be taken to re-open Long Island facilities now, at least those serving residential recovery programs, utilizing water ferries, boat ambulances, field clinics or temporary bridges, as is done worldwide in offshore islands. The United States has the resources to solve the problem of emergency island access, as it has done in countless humanitarian and military missions since World War II.
Immediate steps should be taken to help former Long Island residents recover their possessions, identity papers, clothing and medications, as well as agency and medical records, which reportedly few displacees have been able to retrieve six weeks after Long Island’s evacuation.
The undersigned stand ready to assist government leaders and civil society to ensure their efforts meet global human rights and humanitarian standards to resolve this crisis for the short and long term.
Miloon Kothari MIT*/ Former UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Adequate Housing
Balakrishnan Rajagopal MIT*/Displacement Research and Action Network*
Prafulla Samantara Convener, National Alliance of Peoples Movements, India
Larry Vale MIT* /Director, Resilient Cities Housing Initiative
Mel King “Love is the Question and the Answer”
Joana Barros FASE-Solidariede & Edu Cagas, Brasil
Amita Bhide Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
J. Philip Thompson MIT*/Associate Professor, Urban Studies and Planning
Frederic Mousseau The Oakland Institute, California
Priti Narayan Rutgers University*, New Jersey
Albert Scharenberg Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung New York Office
Tony Samara Urban Habitat*, Oakland, California
Michael Kane National Alliance of HUD Tenants, Boston
Carien van der Linde Legal Resources Centre, Republic of South Africa
David N’tseng Church Land Programme, Republic of South Africa
Rachel LaForest Right to the City Alliance, New York City
Allan Denchfield City Life/Vida Urbana, Boston
Ryan Schlief International Accountability Project, New York City
Ethan Earle Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York Office
Nelson Saule Junior Polis Institute, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Rob Call Occupy Our Homes, Atlanta, Georgia
Usha Ramanathan India
*Organization listed for identification purposes only
Photo: Participants in Boston demonstration, 27 November 2014, protesters mistreatment of homeless and displaced persons.