Service Title: Winter Offensive: National Union of the Homeless
Preacher/Speaker: Dr. Savina Martin, National Union of the Homeless, MA PPC
Scripture: Mark 12:38-44

This past Sunday November 7, 2021 through MLK Day the Freedom Church of the Poor, National Union of the Homeless, and others will be engaging in a Winter Offensive (To watch the full service click here). This season is marketed to us by corporations and churches as the season to spend money. But in the grips of poverty it is a season of death and heartbreak. In the Winter Offensive we will worship together, learn together, take action together, and untie ourselves from the shackles of false narratives that hold us back from becoming the powerful unsettling force of change God calls us to be.

Dr. Savina Martin:

This section of Mark’s gospel, since Jesus’ triumphal entry, has been dominated by controversy and antagonistic interaction between Jesus and various groups with leadership responsibilities in first-century Judaism. It is not surprising, then, that we find here a final nail in the coffin, a sweeping condemnation of the scribes.

The scripture informs us that the widow gave everything she had to God. What we know is the poor have been left to fend for themselves while the rich get RICHER, we get poorer. We give of our time, working long hours for never enough…never enough to feed our family… never enough to afford a decent home or apartment…and never enough —while asked for a copay? Earlier we heard stunning facts that Dr. Curuso laid out. Now let’s hear why we are fed up!

Dr. King said, “The dispossessed of this nation — the poor, both white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against the injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.

We are witnessing a breaking down of the structural foundation of capitalist economic society into two antagonistic classes, each an enemy of the other. We have nothing to lose and we must Organize, Organize Organize!

As taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses”. 

Today we are moral witnesses to big tech,  pharmaceutical corporations, and rich developers who come into our communities– dealing opioid pain pills, and gentrifying our neighborhoods with over priced housing– right on the streets where we grew up on!

We are witnessing a breaking down of the structural foundation of capitalist economic society into two antagonistic classes, each an enemy of the other. We have nothing to lose and we must Organize, Organize, Organize!

We, the poor are subject to growing permanent- unemployment and underemployment–what has been placed is a structural death sentence on the plight of the poor today. In other words the newly impoverished masses are being placed in an economic and social position where we have to raise our fist against a system that could care less about the lives of the poor. This new structural position is constituting the poor and dispossessed as a new social force or as again Dr. King once defined as the potentially powerful “new and unsettling force.”

This is the 35th year since the National Union of the Homeless launched its Winter offensive entitled “Homes and Jobs, not death in the streets”. We called for simultaneous actions across the country along with our affiliates. And this year is the inaugural year of the Winter offensive partnered throughout the nation with our states unions, national welfare rights, the Poor People’s Campaign and many frontline leaders who are here tonight, veterans, Freedom Church, Kairos Center, Freedom Shul of the Poor, National Union of the Homeless, PPF PA, Non-Violent Medicaid Army, PA Union of the Homless, Atlanta Union of the Homless, NYS Union of the Homless, Chicago, Gary, California, Texas, La Iglesia del Pueblo, housing tenants unions, artists, cultural workers, filmmakers, faith leaders and teachers —and the poor who are organizing the poor to end poverty. 

We the poor, the unhoused, the bottom are on board! We may appear backward, disorganized, disheveled and greasy, but we are here….poor people everywhere are struggling to survive and live through their own winter offensive…..if we have a home or an apartment we are on the offensive fighting for the infrastructure of our homes to keep going- clean water, heat to stay warm, gas to cook, and lights to see. We are struggling to communicate through internet deserts in our rural communities and food deserts in our urban centers. 

Today we are taking action to reclaim and take back what is ours, to unite across lines of division and to speak our truth on this platform called the Freedom Church of the Poor, eleven weeks of Sunday School of Struggle where you will hear songs, music, teaching, preaching and offering up our sacred bodies on the line to build a mass movement to mobilize and organize into Washington D.C. in June of 2022.  We the poor– the houseless, the widow and orphan will approach the city gates, and offer up—  OUT-OF-OUR-POVERTY, OUR TWO CENTS!

Our two cents to demand that a change is necessary for us to live, that we may be homeless but we are not helpless, that we know that in the richest country in the world that the signs should not bear NO Room at the Inn, so we will make our own room, we will continue to build encampments without the fear of being arrested, as long as there is no housing for us, there will be no peace! As long as the poor have to freeze on a cold winters night or die in a tenement fire, there will be no peace. As long as the poor and dispossessed have to fight for bread, peace and land we shall build power, organizing against a system that view us as human industrial waste.  There is a call to action to organize, to mobilize to study and demand an end to criminalizing the poor, an end to incarcerating the poor – this states system clothed in their robes and fine linen have neglected to provide for the people, to secure our common defense to promote the general welfare. And that today, we are declaring Homeless Unions, and all of our affiliates are banning together…we are rising, 

Lastly, let today mark Winter Offensive Day across this nation, we are only organized to take back what is ours, and we will march down to the rich man’s house and declare and decree that you don’t have another day to take our money, to take our food to take our homes and steal our children, enough is enough. NO HOUSING NO PEACE! No housing, no peace! Organize, educate, teach and study! Stay with us, build with us, pray with us.

Watch the full service from November 7, 2021 here.

This season, Freedom Church of the Poor has released an Advent study series built off of several entries from the We Cry Justice devotional. We hope it will be used to reinforce the Winter Offensive and engage communities, especially as we mobilize for a Mass Poor People’s and Low Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington, June 18th, 2022.