By Needa Bee
As California’s homeless state of emergency continues to soar above the rest of the crisis that sweeps the United States, so do falsely claimed government controlled “solutions.”
The state and the nation are turning their eyes to the Bay Area governments who are patting themselves on the back for their successful approaches, while the housing affordability crisis and homeless state of emergency continue to be some of the worse. Unfortunately the programs to prevent homelessness and the pathways to end homelessness many times do not result in a permanent roof over your head. Rather they are a revolving door (and sometimes a one way door) back to the streets.
The next three issues, we will look at how different Bay Area Cities are addressing the affordable housing & homeless crisis. First city: Oakland
Oakland: Working on Making Homeless People Disappear, While the Homeless Crisis Grows
Over the past two years, the City of Oakland has spent unprecedented millions of dollars on so called solutions to homelessness. But during that time Oakland’s unhoused population has more than doubled, and hundreds of curbside residents who have been thru Tuff Sheds and Bay Area Community Services Rapid Rehousing efforts have been recycled back on the streets.
Meanwhile, rather than heed the October 19th, 2018 United Nations report from the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing who visited Oakland homeless encampments in the Fall 2017 and described the conditions as “cruel and inhuman,” Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Encampment Management Team has increased its inhumane treatment of its most vulnerable residents. The only U.S. cities called out for violations in the UN’s new report on global homelessness conditions are San Francisco and Oakland. As stated in the new UN report:
The Oakland conditions of discrimination and harassment of encampment residents and punitive denials of access to basic services constitute “cruel and inhuman treatment and is a violation of multiple human rights…Such punitive policies must be prohibited in law and immediately ceased.”
Since that report, there has been a massive increase in the already inhumane practices described in the UN report. There has also been new tactics the Encampment Management Team deploys including demolishing entire communities of self-built homes or taking vehicles people live in. Adding insult to injury, trauma to more trauma, no alternative adequate shelter is being offered to the communities it destroys – not even a tent or one night in a homeless shelter, but leaves people vulnerable and traumatized on the side of the road where their homes & RVs once stood.
From The Curbs to To BandAid Shelter to The Curbs
When The City pats itself on its back for offering one night at St. Vincent de Paul, it’s still not offering adequate shelter. Because the shelter system is broken. The City knows this. The homeless service providers know this. And the unsheltered know this. Yet The Mayor wants to use millions of dollars to build more homeless shelters without drastically fixing this broken system. Many of us have advocated and advised that if The City is set on shelter beds, they should in the very least improve the existing system instead of wasting public funds in a system that recycles people in and out of the streets. And why should millions be spent on beds when those resources could be used to build permanent housing?
The main push prior to the creation of new homeless shelters was the multi-million dollar Tuff Shed Scam. Tuff sheds do not work. They do not improve the lives of the vast majority of people who are pushed through them. Much like the shelter system, a majority of people are recycled back onto the streets after spending 6 months to a year in the tuff sheds. In addition, the mismanagement of the tuff shed sites by non-profits receiving a half a million dollars to run them is unacceptable. The Village and Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute has documented dozens of testimonies of abuse, punishment, loss of personal property, dismal conditions, harm and violence from former residents of the Tuff Sheds. The Tuff Shed program is merely a cosmetic approach that gives the illusion of doing something, while making homeless residents – not the homeless crisis – disappear.
The Mayor and her Encampment Management Team needs to come clean. Approaching homelessness as a humanitarian crisis is not their priority. However, approaching homelessness as an eye sore to their profit driven development plans is a priority that is making a handful of people very rich. The money is not reaching the people it has been intended to help.
There are literally thousands of Oaklanders, mostly Black, mostly born and raised in Oakland, living on the streets tonight. Meanwhile, for every one unhoused person, four residential units stay empty in Oakland. Meanwhile, 200 permanent housing units have been approved to be built over the next five years. Over that same time 50,000 market rate and above market rate units will be built.
The City is lying. They have no intention to solve the affordable housing crisis or the homeless state of emergency. They have every intention of building for rich, white people who do not live here, while they leave The Town on the streets to freeze to death.