By Needa Bee
New Cruel & Unusual Tactics on Oakland Curbside Communities Receives Anger, Frustration and Disbelief
Since December of last year, Mayor Libby Schaaf’s “Encampment Management Team” launched a new approach to their homeless solution plan: demolish self-built homes at curbside communities, for “brick and mortar fire code & building code violations,” and tow and impound entire RV & camper communities. To date four self built home communities have been flattened, and at least four known vehicle dwelling communities have lost their homes on wheels.
More than 300 people have had their homes demolished or towed by Department of Public Works. The City has labeled these actions as “clean and clears.” The residents were allowed to remain, but forced to temporarily move their belongings and downgrade to tents. The City offered no alternative shelters or provided tents to the residents who lost their shelter.
After the destruction of their communities, advocates and health practitioners documented many set-backs, tragedies and medical issues that resulted from The City’s actions, including:
- Deep depression, despair, anxiety, PTSD
- Loss of medicine & medical equipment
- Death of a pets who were hit by cars, because they were running around confused with no homes to go to
- Loss of laptops and other electronics
- Loss of jobs or set-backs in self-employment
- Total destruction of stability and safety
- Loss of thousands of dollars in materials used to build homes
- Dozens of incidents of pneumonia and two known cases of people freezing to death
Community members continue to be outraged The City would destroy sturdy shelters in the midst of its homeless state of emergency and not improve people’s conditions. And to do so right before the rains and colder Bay Area weather approaches is a further injury and insult.
Despite community members calling, emailing and texting City officials demanding a halt each time a community was destroyed, the City ignored the public’s plea and instead moved forward with their plans. The City also lied to the media and public by claiming they provided residents with tents or adequate shelter.
“The Encampment Management Team (EMT) made this plan without speaking to the residents of the curbside community. We are asking the Mayor and her EMT to take a compassionate approach and stop the destruction of the homes,” said Candice Elder, Founder of The East Oakland Collective and curbside community advocate. “Instead The City should prioritize housing and relocating camps to a safer location for all.”
Advocating for the best, but preparing for the worst, organizations like The East Oakland Collective, The Village, and Love & Justice in The Streets headed up drives to replace the destroyed or impounded homes with large 8-15 person tents.
“None of the residents want to lose their homes. And no one can understand why The City would destroy their homes and leave them on the streets with absolutely nothing,” said Talya Husbands-Hankin with Homeless Advocacy Working Group.
Husbands-Hankin explained residents need support with getting tents; tarps and other weatherproofing materials; palettes, sheet metal and other rat protection materials.
Legal observers, advocates and community supporters on hand supported residents and responded to what they are calling an inhumane, violent and traumatizing decision that can and should be avoided.
“The reality is there isn’t anywhere for folks to go and The City can’t properly serve us with housing that is affordable. So our people took it upon themselves to house themselves,’ said Needa Bee, unhoused Co-Founder of The Village, a curbside community human rights movement. “Instead of knocking our community members down while they are trying to stand up The City needs to be humane in their practices. And The City needs to immediately find adequate, long term emergency housing, with priority given to mothers with newborns or small children, the sick and the elderly. One night in a shelter isn’t adequate when compared to a tight knit community that takes care of each other.”
The seven sites targeted with this new and inhumane approach to homelessness were: the tiny home community on San Leandro Blvd between 81st and 85th Ave.; Housing & Dignity Village, the curbside community next to the High Street Home Depot; Union Point Park; the vehicle community once located around East Oakland DMV; the RV community once located at Rumaldi Park in West Oakland; Wood Street Collective; E12 between 16 and 19 Aves.