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This past Valentine’s Day, some fifty tenants, homeless people, seniors, people with disabilities, and families gathered at the Low-Income Self-Help Center to shout out against further cuts to housing and other safety net programs that they depend on to survive. It was part of a national mobilization by the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT) all across the country.

Right now congress is getting ready to implement a so-called “sequestration” cut of 5.1% to the HUD housing budget on March 1. This would make even more hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters homeless, if we do not take action to stop it. Senior housing tenant Irving Foster read a letter of support from Congresswo-man Anna Eshoo. Tenants who are on the HUD Section 8 program are already barely making it, he said. “This area has a shortage of housing and a lot of highly paid engineers, so the rest of us get left out. Even with a Section 8 voucher it is almost impossible to find an apartment to rent in Silicon Valley.”

Shawna Nixon, a young adult studying to become a paralegal, read a support letter from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. While not in HUD housing, Shawna said she was familiar with the situation of people who depend on Social Security and Medicaid, and passionately argued against any cuts to any of the safety net programs.

“This is not about charity,” added Legal Aid Society paralegal Janice Carolina. “These programs are basic human rights that each and every one of us deserves as a member of a civilized society.” She encouraged tenants to confront elected officials at every level, to not only save housing programs but to demand habitable living conditions for everyone and a Just Cause ordinance in the City of San Jose.

Santa Clara County already experiences a desperate shortage of affordable housing. Thousands are forced to live outside in tents and boxes, where they face unnecessary suffering, and even death, in this winter flu season weather.

The Valentine’s Day Speak Out was sponsored by Affordable Housing Network, Low-Income Self-Help Center, Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, and endorsed by Sacred Heart Community Service.

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