By Ted Gullicksen
Miguel Wooding, a longtime San Francisco Tenants Union leader & volunteer and the founder and Director of the Eviction Defense Collaborative passed away Sunday, July 24, in a snorkeling accident while vacationing in Mexico. He was 46. There was a public memorial for him on Saturday, August 20, at the Women’s Building, 3543 18th St. in San Francisco.
Miguel grew up in the Syracuse, New York area and moved to California where he attended Stanford for several years, living cooperatively and completing most of the physics major (including an honors project) and taking many graduate-level classes before stopping school to go teach English in China for two years.
On his return, he decided (after the earthquake in 1989 made continuing classes complicated) that his calling lay more on social issues than science, and left college (short only 1 or 2 easy courses) to move to the city to pursue that path. He really was, unlike almost anyone else at Stanford, there only as long as the education was interesting to him, and not at all for the utility of the degree.
He lived in the cooperative they called the “Anarchy Arboretum”, and worked initially with Swords to Plowshares, which is where (in an office with 5 people named Michael) he began to be called Miguel. While working at Swords, Miguel began volunteering at the San Francisco Tenants Union in 1991 and soon became a core volunteer, active in all aspects of the organization. Besides counseling tenants, Miguel oversaw the transformation of the Tenants Rights Handbook into a “real” book, he coordinated trainings for counselors and he was crucial in every legislative effort by the Tenants Union in the past 20 years. Miguel was also a founding member of Homes Not Jails, the squatting group, and an HNJ leader throughout the 90s and was arrested dozens of times fighting to get housing for people who were homeless.
But his real achievement was founding the Eviction Defense Collaborative, which helps tenants fight evictions when the evictions go to court. In 1995, funding cuts forced the closure of the agency providing this service and Miguel organized tenant attorneys and volunteers from various legal; aid and tenant organizations to begin providing this service again. From there he secured enough funding to get an office and hire 1 staff member. Today the EDC has 14 staff and dozens of volunteers and besides helping tenants fight evictions it helps tenants who are behind in their rent with funds so those tenant won’t get evicted. Thousands of renters have been saved from eviction due to the EDC.
Miguel saved the homes of thousands of people and found homes for hundreds of people living on the streets. He is much beloved and will be missed by many.
By Ted Gullicksen