Sue Hodes walked into the Real Change office carrying a thick volume about global imperialism, colonization and slavery. As she started describing her life before she came to Seattle, it became clear Sue had an important story to tell.
Sue always felt out of step with the world. As a Jewish lesbian from New Jersey who came of age in the 1960s, she played along with heteronormative stereotypes to fit in. Once the feminist movement began, Sue went to the first New England Feminist Conference in 1971, where she came out as lesbian and grew into her identity. She realized that she was not out of step, but that the world was. The world around her needed to change.
Her realization propelled her into action with a lesbian rights group. Sue has been doing activism both in the United States and abroad around LGBT rights, civil rights, education and immigration for over 20 years. Once Trump got elected, she extended her activism to combating homelessness in Seattle with the Neighborhood Action Coalition. She is actively involved in the Housing For All Coalition, attends international conferences for Women in Black and is engaged in conversations with Coalition to End Urban Indigenous.
You’ve been pretty steeped in this fight for the Progressive Business Tax. If it’s not too late, what can we do to get the public to realize how important this is?
For one thing, I would really like all the different people and organizations who are working on houselessness to show a force — together. The people already working together need to show up publicly. And really, I think we need to go door to door to talk to our neighbors about the issue. I don’t know what to do about the rampantly classist people though. That’s the most disheartening to me.
I was up at a sweep recently in Ballard, and I ran into a couple of [neighborhood folks] and we were talking. People are just so removed from reality because they live in their nice little or big houses with their manicured lawns and they want to keep things orderly. This one woman [was] saying how in Portland they’re letting communities set up in these old airport hangars, and maybe that can be an alternative here. I just remember this unhoused man saying imagine what it’d be like to live in an area with 40 of your closest friends and your family, let alone people you don’t even know! How long would you last? Not very long. I had this feeling that she didn’t have a sense of [unhoused] people as people.
As a White person, I should cope with the people in Ballard that are unkind and keep the dialogue up, though I don’t have a lot of hope.
I’d like to hear more about the work you’re doing with Indigenous homeless and low-income people.
I haven’t done much, but I’ve been to two meetings for the Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness. I went because Ty Nolan, who’s in Housing for All Coalition, invited us. All I can say is that it’s a listening and learning experience for me.
It’s complicated, because most of the people [at the meeting] are Indigenous, but they’re working in 501(c)(3)s. Indigenous people are the highest percentage of houseless people, proportionally, right?
And of course they’re houseless on their own land. I learned that the coordinated entry really disadvantages [people of color], especially Native people. It’s really bad for Native people, and their institutions and shelters have to take in people who are not Native.
And of course, Native people respond really well to Native social workers. Colleen from Chief Seattle Club said that they just got new money, and they have a new housing [coordinator] who found housing for 10 people, whereas most Indigenous people and people of color are not going to any of these people who can help them. I learned how important it is to have funding for Native people to be working in this field, working with their people to find housing and how the housing has to be appropriate to their needs. I’m going to keep going to the meetings.
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