October 16, 2017

Helen Lima

Helen LimaMarianne Lawless Hellraiser of the Year

I want to thank my friend Wanda Remmers and Housing Rights for this award. If is wonderful and very flattering to have my name linked with Barbara Lee’s (Editor’s note: our other honoree for the November 4th event). How lucky we are to have her as our representative. She understands the problems of poor people and knows what to do.

I am also very proud to be associated with the Strawberry Creek Lodge Legislative Committee. This award was earned in large part by the hard work of the Legislative Committee and I am glad to accept it for this collective of which I am a member. This committee recognized the need to build a network of support at the grassroots level for Congresswoman Barbara Lee to be successful in her acitons–getting a discharge petition filed that would get the National Housing Trust Fund legislation out of the Financial Services Committee and onto the floor of Congress.

THe Legislative Committee consists of 8 or 10 women residents at Strawberry Creek Lodge and myself. We are women who worked on jobs in our younger years, retired from these jobs and were prepared to spend our older years making baby blankets and baking cookies. We found our own housing under attack with the Bush Administration’s hostility to programs which assist poor people. We were horrified at the extent of homelessness in the United States. Today there are about 3.5 million homeless people in the United States. Homelessness grew by 17% this last year. We joined the fight. We circulated a petition which asked congress to restore HUD including section 8 to its original scope and purpose. We secured 6,000 names on it. We wrote hundreds of letters, make hundreds of phone calls, responded to hundreds of email messages and made a video that is so modern and up-to-date that I can’t even describe it because I am a computer idiot. Seniors in other parts of the country did similar work.

The combination of grass roots action with Barbara Lee’s ability to rally the progressive Democrats, the Congressional Black Caucus and a few Republicans saved the day. Section 8 vouchers were included in the 2004 Federal Budget.

The housing crisis in this country has deepened in recent years–we must work to reverse that trend, to get government to ensure decent housing for all. Housing is a Human Right.

I want to thank you all for coming here tonight. I want to thank my friends and family–my daughters, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren.

I’d like to end with words from Marge Piercy’s poem To Be of Use:

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again

Helen Lima November 4, 2004.