The University of the Poor emerged from the collective experience of a broad network of organizations and efforts. It comes from our reflection on many past successes and failures in developing cadre committed to the unity and leadership of the poor. Our lineage includes work with homeless unions, welfare rights organizations, trade unions and various other grassroots and poor people’s organizations.
This work has shown us the need to understand and respond to changes in the political and economic landscape, develop leaders with clarity and vision, as well as the commitment to unite the poor and dispossessed who have been historically divided to our detriment.
We have observed that without deeper education, people who are organized only on the basis of narrowly understood and short-term interests tend to leave the movement instead of becoming committed leaders. They leave once their immediate needs are met, or once they face failure in a campaign, or backlash, or other kinds of defeat. We’ve also seen that for every person you can help find housing, ten more become homeless. An approach that says you can solve homelessness, environmental injustice, racial oppression, war, or any other struggle one person or policy change at a time is not sustainable.