In the late 1980s, Brian Flagg began a new Christmas tradition that lasted for 14 years. He camped out with homeless protesters at the Tucson (Ariz.) Federal Building. Complementing the nativity scene on display there, the protesters posted a sign that read “Still no room at the inn.

Flagg, who has directed Tucson’s Casa Maria homeless center for the past 22 years, was taking part in a historical trend: the steady increase in the number of homeless protests over the course of the 1980s....

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