In the past week in Kentucky, a mayor ordered a hotel not to rent rooms to paying homeless customers, and a constable tried to collaborate with landlords to pressure tenants out of their homes despite the state’s moratorium on evictions. These are despicable actions. With these visceral injustices in mind, we should remind ourselves that tenants’ problems are not caused by bad apples. Tenants are exploited by a rotten system.

We should be disgusted that Constable Wade McNabb tried to make it easier for landlords to pressure tenants out of homes they have a legal right to in the middle of a public health crisis. We should also ask, why do we have constables at all? Why does an elected position exist with so few responsibilities, such little accountability, and an incentive to profit off serving vacate orders? More fundamentally, why do so many parts of our government—constables, sheriffs, eviction court, landlord-tenant laws—make it easy for landlords to evict tenants, and so few parts of our government protect tenants?

Likewise, we should be outraged that Florence Mayor Diane Whalen ordered a hotel not to rent rooms to paying homeless customers. And we should ask, why weren’t those hotels opened to homeless folks weeks ago, paid for by the government? More fundamentally, why is anyone homeless at all?

The housing system in the US, and especially in Kentucky, prioritizes landlords’ profit over tenants’ need for shelter. Housing functions as an investment, not a right. We need to fight to make real our belief that housing is a human right. We need to organize tenants, demand that homelessness end, and force our governments to massively invest in genuinely affordable housing—in social housing.

We are righteously indignant at Mayor Whalen and Constable McNabb’s actions. Let’s transform our righteous indignation into tenant power, for the long haul.

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