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Thursday, June 13, 2024

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HousingHomelessnessMother's Day -- for homeless mamas

Mother’s Day — for homeless mamas

A story of eviction, gentrification, poverty -- and hope.


When People Say

Happy Mamas day 

it jus never felt ok

When so many mamas & babies sit behind false borders and steel bars, 

sleeping in tents and cars, 

Dreaming of their lost babies shot by PoLice fire

No equity, No Money,

Not time to love or spit bars

Hold their babies in their arms

Dream Dreams or Gaze at stars 

Our Communities and support and life lost to gentriFUKED streets

Our ideas and dreams so often Silenced so we can barely speak

Happy Mamas Day…

How can it really be – 

anything more than Amerikkklan Hypocrisy

How bout Equity, Healing-Care Not HellthCare

How bout Housing, De-carceration and the end of PoLice Terror of our Suns and Daughters and the War on the POOR 

Happy Mamaz Day

How can it be

Until all of our Mamas & Mama Earth Can b free 

Otherwise isn’t Happy Mamas Day just more krapitalist HypKRAZY?

The document said “30 day notice to pay a $700 rent increase or quit.”

The white paper with the oversized violent black font fluttered in the morning breeze. We three houseless, disabled mamas sat huddled at a long wooden table in the huge kitchen at MamaHouse#3 in San Francisco’s dangerously gentrifying Mission District — where the word gentriFUKation originated from my mouth, born out of my anger and sorrow for the violent plight of so many poor folks dealing with displacement. The bright morning sun streaming through beautiful long windows warmed our terrorized faces. 

You can buy Tiny’s book here.

“I knew it, this place was too nice for us, it was just a matter of time” Laure McElroy, my longtime sister, mama warrior, fellow Po’ poet and founding member of POOR Magazine ’s welfareQUEEN’s project with me and other poor mamas, crumpled up the notice and then un-crumpled it. The pace of her voice sped up like it always did when she got triggered by fear of homelessness. 


Sandra Sandoval, long-time Mission district resident, organizer and the 3rd fierce mama who struggled with homelessness with her infant son before she moved into MamaHouse with me and Laure, shook her head at the notice.

Mamahouse was a dream launched when me and my mama were struggling on and off with homelessness in San Francisco due to ongoing gentrification. It was a poor mama-led solution to homelessness, poverty, child care, and isolation, all real problems that plague poor single parents in the US and beyond. 

MamaHouse was achievable because it only involved code-switching into middle-class white-ness, and convincing racist, classist scam-lords to rent to three poor, disabled, houseless women and our children. This was never easy and meant a lot of back-story massaging and white-voice implementing.

The MamaHouse dream was everything we knew it would be. We all supported each other with child care, shared resources, and love, which helped to solve one of the poverty scholarship informed lessons taught by me and my mama since the inception of POOR Magazine: Isolation kills and it plagues poor single parents in the US- struggling with the multiple and compounding traumas of loss of relationships, family, resources and community. 

Laure used to say, “You were right — interdependence is truth, I won’t make alone Tiny, I just won’t.”

In September of 2010 all of us mamas were scattered to the wind by that eviction from MamaHouse, sitting outside our beautiful ex-home on Florida street. Houseless with all of children and our belongings in hefty bags on the sidewalk.

“I miss MamaHouse so much,” Laure whispered to me a year after the eviction when she was struggling to get some stable housing. She passed away in August 2018, a victim of the compound trauma of houselessness, poverty, isolation and depression.

She never recovered from that eviction. Most of us don’t.

By 2010’s struggle with Mamahouse#3 it had been 14 years since me and my mama slept on park benches, bus benches and in back seats of cars — dreaming, visioning, planning, working, albeit in vain, for a poor people-led model of housing and support and healing for poor and houseless, disabled, indigenous, black and Brown and poor white families and elders that we called Homefulness.

The only thing we always never had was equity, credit, money, or family to make a beautiful idea into a reality

And it wasn’t for lack of trying. We had applied for HUD grants, private grants, bank loans, begged and pitched investors, tried credit schemes and credit improvement plans. In the end we had nothing but a dream. A dream we knew was the answer, but could never be attained by poor women with no credit or assets.

“Where is my Mothers Day card? Mama asked me on one Mothers Day when we were struggling with yet another eviction notice in yet another apartment. This time, the fear was worse, I was pregnant with my soon to be born son. 

“Mothers Day is a CONsumer lie,” I replied angrily. “How can we celebrate when things are so bad for us so many poor mamas?”

Her response was quick and hard — the back of her hand on my 30-year-old, thought I was grown  head. “That’s just an excuse to not get me a card,” she snapped. “In our poverty-stricken lives things will be bad and good and hard and not so hard, but no matter what, you celebrate who gave you life.” She stared ahead, her eyes hard and dark with fury.  

My mama passed in 2006 and of course, as always, she was right. She had pushed me to never think inside the krapitalist box us poor people were dealt. No matter how hard it was. And for that and so much more I owed every breath of my being to her and had no business tripping off that damn card.

I prayed and cried for mama and in my grief and while at the altar, I realized, so clearly, and I’m sure with her whispers from the other side, that POOR Magazine needed to move a different way to realize the dream of Homefulness. That like Mama used to say, it’s not peoples fault they believe the fucked up lies they were taught about wealth-hoarding and land-stealing, that we needed to teach them another way to live, to give wealth-hoarders and descendants of wealth-hoarders a chance to transform.

But in the end it is up to us poor folks to lift up, to own, to create our Her-Stories and His-stories, to follow our indigenous life-ways and ancestors teachings, this is our liberation. 

After intense prayer and dreaming with all of my ancestors from 2006-2008 while struggling with POOR Magazine’s organizational poverty and homelessness, in 2009 we expanded our already existent PeopleSkool to include a comprehensive curriculum series on the lies of wealth-hoarding and land-stealing and how to transform the extractive “helping” industry into radical redistribution and a new concept I developed called ComeUnity Reparations. 

Peopleskool is a school run by poor people who learned our knowledge in the street and by surviving incarceration, ableism, homelessness, false borders, loss, eviction, violence, abuse and so much more. We share/teach this knowledge with fellow poor people (poverty skolaz we call ourselves), about our connectedness, shared struggles, ways to express and heal using media, theatre, poetry, and art and that first and foremost our own story-making. Struggle is the basis of our liberation and with our stories and truth and poverty scholarship we can teach folks with race and class privilege how to work alongside us in solidarity, to lift up poor-people led solutions to our own problems, rather than perpetuate more about us without us extraction and “savioring” and profiteering.

After the first session of our new seminar on ComeUnity Reparations, several of the privileged graduates of PeopleSkool launched the Solidarity Family and began to raise resources and credit and access points that enabled us poor and houseless people to “buy” a small part of MamaEarth in Oakland so we could spiritually and legally unsell her and begin the long process of actually manifesting, building Homefulness. 

Laure and my mama always said they were certain many of us would be killed by poverty and gentrification violence before Homefulness would be realized. My Mama and Laure were gone along with Aunty Gerry Ambrose, long-time POOR Magazine family member who just passed in February of 2021, another victim of violent displacement.

Homefulness #1 currently houses six formerly houseless, very low-income families and elders, a liberation school that is poised to graduate four formerly houseless young men of color, a radio station, a library, and a grassroots publishing movement called POOR Press.

In 2020, after the January Decolonization/DEgentriFUKation Seminar at PeopleSkool, in the middle of a pandemic, another group of Solidarity family members raised enough money to “buy” another small part of MamaEarth to build a Homefulness #2.  

I hold this work and these successes in a forever traumatized heart, crying for my mama, Mama Laure, Mama Gerry Ambrose, Mama Iris Canada, a Black grandmama evicted at 100 years old and countless incarcerated mamas and indigenous/migrante mamas killed from the pain of carceral violence, abuse and the separation from their children and families. 

I know Mama was right and this is still no excuse to dismiss Mother’s Day. But I still got to call out the hypocrisy of the Happy Day wishes when so many of us mamas are in so much pain.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram


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