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Empty the Shelters believes that direct service, within itself, can never be a solution for the poverty, homelessness, and oppression that are institutionalized in the political and social systems of the United $tates.  Unfortunately, direct service is often the only outlet offered to young people searching for a way to understand and fight these problems.  Many of these students and youth then become disillusioned with volunteerism that lacks both a comprehensive political analysis about the roots of inequality as well as a strategy for creating long-lasting change and empowerment.  The Summer of Social Action is one of the few existing programs designed by young people for young people who want to learn how to move beyond direct service work to create fundamental change in their communities through grassroots activism.  Young people from Atlanta and across the nation converge for two month, living and working together to help build a movement to end poverty and oppression.  Held annually from mid-June to mid-August since 1992, the Summer has provided the setting for over 300 young people to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively organize for social and economic justice. 

The SSA coordinators bring their experience as youth organizers to the program through trainings designed to help participants develop a sophisticated analysis of homelessness, poverty, and oppression.  Topics typically include the legacy of resistance by poor people and people of color, the history of student activism, the impact of the changing global economy (particularly on poor and working communities), welfare reform, and anti-oppression issues.  Coordinator create other trainings geared more toward skills-building, such as power and organizing, facilitation, conflict resolution, and web design. 

ETS intentionally structures the SSA to encourage participants to take maximum ownership of the program.  Using popular education and consensus decision-making models as the foundation of our leadership development, we recognize that each person has skills, knowledge, and experience to contribute- participants are encouraged to take responsibility for their own and others' political education.  After two intensive weeks of training and political education at the start of SSA, participants take charge of the summer by creating their own workshops, facilitating anti-oppression caucuses, participating in project work, and contributing to the cultural development of the program.  Most importantly, the summer program links education with direct community action.  Participants get hands-on experience working for justice within each specific organizing project.  SSA coordinators intentionally create spaces for participants to regularly evaluate their experiences to learn from them as well as voice concerns or suggest changes.  They in turn have the chance to apply theory and analysis in actual political settings.  Through analysis, action, and evaluation, summer participants shape the summer program and grow to realize their role a leaders and allies. 


*empty the shelters is a national organization of young people struggling for our own survival and supporting other organizations led by people struggling for their survival.  we are working to end poverty through fundamental social change.*

from the ets mission statement