Open Collective
Open Collective

Union Cooperative


UC is a Mass Autonomous Organization of workers, professionals, and community activists building a federation of Social Cooperative and a network of self-sufficient Alternative Living Systems in all 50 states.

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The Intentional Space

A Three Pillar Model for Sustainability by Io Karaya (Union Cooperative's Founding Ideology)

Where we live has a profound effect on the rest of our lives. Because of this, people deserve an
intentional space to call home. In order for unhoused, unemployed, recently released, poor, and at-risk (of becoming unhoused, unemployed, etc.) people to get back on their feet, we must provide basic necessities, which are often dangerously expensive, free of cost. In the United States, where housing is a privilege and luxury instead of a human right, alternatives must be built to support the millions of unhoused and at-risk people unable to access employment, medical care, wellness, or community due to not having a place to live. Not only are we organizing “Housing First,” but we advocate for said housing to be sustainable in three major areas: economic, environmental, and sociocultural.

The first area is self-explanatory: it is imperative for marginalized, exploited, poor, working,
colonized, and displaced people to have shelter without compromising other necessities such as
groceries, transportation, education, childcare, or medical care. “Housing First” is a direct approach
that refuses to put unhoused and at-risk people through impossible hurdles and quotas to “prove”
their worthiness of having a roof over their heads. Regardless of factors such as substance use,
employment status, family size, education level, mental wellness, or documentation status, we
require the assurance of our most basic physical and mental needs before exerting our energy on
other tasks. Economically sustainable housing means that safe, secure, and comfortable housing
should be available for anyone who is in need, regardless of their life history or present condition.
This also means that important home functions such as plumbing, heating, air conditioning, pest
control, garbage disposal, and electricity should be frequently monitored and maintained to provide
the best quality services for everyone, ensuring access to safe drinking water, bathing, food storage,
technology, and other basic necessities that are often sidelined in traditional capitalist-run housing.
These services should be provided without prerequisites or extra cost.

The second area, environmental sustainability, is absolutely necessary as colonial military spending
accelerates the ongoing climate crisis. We believe it is critical that we build housing and shelter using
sustainable resources and materials to reduce our negative environmental footprint on the colonized
land of Indigenous peoples across the country. Environmentally sustainable housing means providing a clean, healthy, safe, and wellness-centered living space for people that respects the creatures and land and air and water around it, as well as the spiritual knowledge and cultural history tied to those elements. We ourselves are part of nature, and if we are going to practice wellness, that includes the wellness of the natural world in which we are guests.

The third area is often overlooked in the demand for “Housing First.” Social and cultural sustainability means that living spaces should be welcoming, safe, and supportive of their residents, especially vulnerable populations (Black, Indigenous, and non-white people, trans people, queer people, women, children, DV and SA survivors, disabled people, undocumented people, refugees, sex workers, elders, etc.); inclusive of all but fiercely intolerant of harm. This requires each community to respect all individuals within it and to treat all members with empathy, compassion, and comradery, participate in survivor-centered restorative justice if harm is caused, and be committed to eradicating anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, Sinophobia, antisemitism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, fatphobia, ageism, and all forms of interpersonal and institutional discrimination, domination, and violence within their community. It also means that living spaces should be designed and organized to encourage positive and consensual relations, clear and healthy communication, personal privacy, and cooperation. Socially sustainable housing means providing a healthy physical space for people to find refuge in, be vulnerable in a safe environment, and participate in a supportive community based on wellness and autonomy from the parasitic landlord class, the capitalist housing market, and gentrification. Culturally sustainable housing ensures that individual and group cultural rites, traditions, practices, and beliefs are respected and protected from harm or disruption, and that cultural diversity is embraced without becoming commodified.

Lastly, in a country built on the ongoing genocide and displacement of Indigenous peoples, ongoing
enslavement of New Afrikan and Immigrant laborers, anti-Black, antisemitic, and Islamophobic
terrorist attacks on churches, synagogues, and mosques, police brutality and gentrification, state
surveillance, gendered violence, legalized hate crimes, and widespread cultural acceptance and
tolerance of white supremacy, it is essential for housing and other revolutionary spaces to provide
the masses with a safe environment for complete physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness.
We absolutely have the ability to build these spaces for those who need them, within self-sufficient
anti-capitalist and anti-colonial communities that have full autonomy over their own resources.
Our Three Pillar Model of Sustainability addresses the issues of picking, choosing, and
compromising housing and community features that are so common within the capitalist housing
system, and by focusing equally and fully on all three major areas of sustainability, we advocate for
economically-just, environmentally conscious, and healthy socio-cultural living spaces, work
environments, goods, services, and systems of proletarian organization for unhoused, at-risk,
working, poor, and colonized people away from the control of greedy landlords and the capitalist
markets and state that are solely responsible for our country’s growing oppressed populations.

To feel “at home” can be a long and painful process for unhoused, at-risk, working, poor, and
colonized people. Many of us have never actually felt “at home” before, or perhaps only for a few
days, weeks, or months at most. For many of us, “home” might be a moment, a memory, a
person/group of people, or maybe simply what we carry on our backs. But one’s home is deeply
personal, so while we might be able to survive with just a sense of one, we deserve to have a physical
space to call home as well. We deserve an intentional, revolutionary space where we can eat, bathe,
sleep, read, teach, learn, grow, love, and be loved. We all deserve a place to set down our “home”
and rest our heads without fear of being cast back out into the cold. Anything less is barbarism.

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