Activist Fasts to Lobby For Higher Housing Aid

A Cambridge homeless rights advocate yesterday reached the halfway mark of a 48-day fast aimed at influencing Congress to spend more on housing.

Stewart Guernsey, the director of a Dorchester shelter, is one of nine fasters around the country, three of whom are homeless, who stopped eating on the first day of autumn and will contintue without food until Election Day.

Though he said, "I feel fine, a little weak," Guernsey added that "in another three weeks, I won't be able to walk." He said a stretcher would carry him on November 7, when he plans to attend a march on Washington for the homeless.

Guernsey said he aims to pressure Congress to pass measures to increase federal spending on housing, such as a bill sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

"We have to wait until we look starved, like victims of a concentration camp," said Guernsey. "At that point the press will pick it up and the pressure will build. Now we are laying the groundwork for that."

Guernsey has been arrested four times in the past year, he said, but will continue to lobby for his cause. "It's not fun going without food for 25 days, and it's not fun sitting on a steel cot in a D.C. jail, but it's not fun sleeping on a park bench or living in a shelter, either. So I'll continue to do this."

Some Harvard students who have worked with Guernsey support this fast. "In the long term it will be potentially effective to have folks reminded that people are willing to do this," said Daniel Buchanan '89, co-director of the University Lutheran Shelter, which is run by a committee of Phillips Brooks House. Guernsey has served as an advisor to the shelter.

Speaking at Adams House on Sunday, Guernsey cited some alarming statistics, talked about student opportunities to aid the homeless and spoke about future worsening of homelessness, should George Bush be elected.

"Dukakis would not veto a substantive bill," he said. "He wouldn't propose one, but he would not veto one either. If Bush is elected--well, a wing and a prayer."