Today was our Right to Housing day! Several of our campers have interfaced with the issue of homelessness, either having experienced it themselves, or having found ways to support people experiencing it. Others shared that they’re aware of people in their communities struggling to find shelter. They’re noticing, for example, tent communities that have sprung up in recent months. When considering the right to housing, homelessness is certainly an obvious place to start. But there are other situations where people encounter barriers in exercising this right.
Our guest this morning is someone who takes on the challenge of lowering some of those barriers. Esther Graff-Radford is a private attorney in Atlanta who represents both tenants and landlords in eviction cases. Esther shared with us some of her own history and then presented scenarios from her legal cases for us to consider. What should happen when a tenant loses a home because of a landlord’s negligence? What should happen when a tenant manipulates the law to avoid paying rent to a landlord who depends on that income? Esther’s insight into broader issues around the right to housing expanded our perspective and opened up more questions than we had answers for!
Prior to today’s session, campers had each been given materials and instructions to build a model house, and we spent part of our morning sharing those models. They each introduced us to an imaginary person who might live in a shelter similar to the one they built. Campers’ creativity really shined through in this activity! From a off-grid cabin in Ireland to a shelter made of discarded materials in Haiti to a bamboo house in Nepal to a Native Alaskan dwelling in the Arctic to a brick house in Switzerland, we considered the vast variety of housing that our global neighbors occupy. Further discussion focused on the effects that each of these shelters and their occupants will experience as climate change worsens.
Our afternoon was spent laying the groundwork for the project that campers will develop and carry out in the months after camp. The group devoted significant time to deciding how to decide: what decision-making processes will best uphold the value of each person’s opinion? Campers reflected on past group experiences when they did or did not feel heard in decision-making. We considered the pros and cons of methods like voting and consensus. The ideas and perspectives that were shared have implications far beyond the group process of our little community.
It’s amazing how our group has coalesced in just three days of virtual sessions. The foundations are being laid for strong and effective teamwork. We can’t wait to see what happens next!