Mek Ah tell yuh 'bout we future. An' Ah doan jus' talkin' 'bout the future of homeless peoples, Ah'm a talk 'bout the future of ev'ryone a we. The thing about the future is that in order to glimpse it, you have to step back and check the past. There is an historical precedent for what we see around us now.
In England a long time ago when the way society produced its wealth changed from feudalism to mercantilism, laws called the Enclosure Acts came into force. These Enclosure Acts allowed the lord who owned the land to put cruelly-spiked hawthorne hedges around his manor. The purpose of these hawthorne hedges was to keep serfs who formerly lived on the manor out and sheep who were the newly-installed tenants from wandering away. There was a saying at the time that the Enclosure Acts made for fat, sleek sheep and lean, hungry people. Cotton was not yet king as it would become later in the Industrial Revolution but the production of wool had become very profitable. Sheep were in, the serfs whose forebears had lived on the manors for centuries were out. The serfs were now "free" but they were also homeless.
The repercussions of the Enclosure Acts and the huge superfluous population they created impacted widely throughout English society. There were whipping posts every so often along the roads where a gentleman could tie up and whip a "sturdy beggar." The roads between the towns were filled with highwaymen. The poor were criminalized then as now, the number of capital offenses soared. When a poor man, woman or child was hanged for the capital offense of theft, the festive atmosphere and spectacle of a public hanging attracted the crowds and the crowds were worked by troupes of pickpockets. Picking pockets was also a capital offense.
Feudalism had been around a long time and no one expected its demise. Poor people cried out unto God for some explanation of the condition that they found themselves in. Many of the denominations of Christianity that are with us today can be traced back to that time. What eventually became of the people who suffered in that time of social transformation is that new lands opened up to them where they could go. Many were transported to the penal colonies of Australia, others colonized the New World. They became pioneers.
Today we live in a time of social transformation as they did then, a new informational age and a time of economic globalization. It is a time of social dislocation. Today the economy is booming and so is the homeless population. What we see around us now in the downtown core of our cities is homeless people wall-to-wall. Many of the jobs that paid anything have gone south or elsewhere or are now done by machines. Today the cost of space in our cities to live in is climbing beyond the reach of many low income people. And today homeless people are harried and harassed, run from here to there, taxed by fines, commodified and used as a resource, sometimes brutalized, occasionally felonized and often used as slave labour by the prison industry. You know what they say: the good can't rest and the wicked never sleep. Not, of course, that ev'ry one of we is good. But we are human beings and we do not deserve the treatment we receive at the hands of wicked men.
Very soon now we shall pitch the tents of Joshua on various sites around the city. We are blessed here in Oregon with ample public land and so there is space if not a place for us to go. We must build that place for ourselves. Know that the kernel of the future lies buried in the present. It is important for the future how we set up and govern our camps now. We have many friends. There are those who would fight against we, workers of iniquity who profit from our situation and would rather things remain the way they are. It is time to be of good courage, brothers and sisters. We may wander for a time in the wilderness. But as surely as night follows day, one day we shall reach a land flowing with milk and honey.