“The Village” Immediate Solution Model Protected Under Ordinance, City Owned Lands Potentially In The Future of The Community Led Response
Oakland, CA – At 5pm on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 Oakland City Council will deliberate whether or not to reinstate a second California Shelter Crisis Ordinance. The ordinance declares that restrictions around housing codes will be lifted. “The provisions of any state or local regulatory statute, regulation or ordinance prescribing standards of housing, health or safety shall be suspended to the extent that strict compliance would in anyway prevent, hinder or delay the mitigation of the efforts of the shelter crisis,” the California ordinance states.
In other words, housing that would otherwise be deemed illegal like tents and non-code compliant shelters would be allowed in designated sites to alleviate the homeless state of emergency. If passed this modified ordinance will also include private as well as public lands. And the declaration will be sanctioned for the maximum time of two years.
In December 2015 the City Council declared a shelter crisis for January 2016-2017. However the declaration was not backed up with a plan or funding and nothing happened to address the state of emergency. In fact the crisis worsened.
On January 20, 2017 a group of Oakland residents – both housed and unhoused – reclaimed Marcus Garvey Park on Martin Luther King Jr. and 36th to build homes and services for Oakland’s unhoused residents. The direct action was called The Village, and the organizers stood on a moral compass as well as several laws, including the shelter crisis ordinance, to proclaim their unorthodox method necessary and legal.
When the city spent $75,000 to bulldoze the highly successful solution thirteen days later, scores of Village members and supporters marched to city hall to protest the administration’s inhumane, ineffective and violent response to the community driven solution.
From that city hall protest, the Homeless Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) was created made of several members and supporters of The Village. For the past 7 months HAWG has been pressuring the administration and city council to adopt several solutions including full sanitation services at all encampments; the building of a second Henry J Robinson Center, the end to human rights and constitutional rights violations, the reinstatement of the shelter crisis declaration with funding and plans to back it up, and the acceptance and support of autonomous community driven solutions like The Village.
“It’s been a long, slow, uphill battle – not the urgency you would expect from government officials in a state of emergency,” said Village co-founder and lead organizer Bobby Qui. “But we hope over the next several weeks to see moves within City Hall that will ensure a significant number of Oakland’s homeless residents will be able to have access to the basic human right of housing in an otherwise unaccessible gentrified housing market.”
Currently HAWG is lobbying to get the city to give The Village public parcels to build housing and services immediately for Oakland’s homeless. On September 26th the Life Enrichment Committee will hear a report from the City Administrator’s office about The Village model and the administrator’s “Safe Haven” . The “Safe Haven” proposal is nothing short of The Village model modified with bureaucracy that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
“We are happy that the City was so inspired by our model, but their slow and money driven process will not adequately address this crisis. We believe that the City should move forward with their institutionalized version of The Village, but we also think that in the spirit and intent of the ordinance they need to embrace all solutions that come to forward. Especially no cost/low cost, community funded and led solutions,” said Village co-founder and lead organizer Needa Bee.
Bee said the administration has expressed that there is a liability issue with allowing The Village to operate as well as questioned the ability of The Village to succeed.
‘Under the Shelter Crisis Ordinance liability is suspended until the crisis is over. The city is suggesting that The Village does not have the professional experience to maintain this solution. These appear to be excuses to not work with the people of Oakland who have provided the city with an effective model,” Bee said. “They are ignoring The Village leadership comes from the homeless non-profit sector, are homeless advocates, are grassroots organizers and nonprofit leaders, are formally and currently homeless, or former drug addicts. And not only do we have vast experience and aptitude within our organization, but we have hella heart and a deep commitment to prioritizing the victims of the city’s agenda of gentrification.”
ABOUT HAWG (Homeless Advocacy Working Group) –
The mission of the Homeless Advocacy Working Group is to assist in ending the disgrace of human beings sleeping on the street, in vehicles, in the open, and in unsafe shelters, and to insist, unconditionally, that “Housing is a Human Right.” The Working Group demands that all persons, irrespective of their housing or economic status, must be provided with decent shelter they can afford and, at all times, must be treated with the utmost of courtesy, dignity, and respect.
ABOUT THE VILLAGE –
The Village is a network of people housed and unhoused; born and raised here and just got here, that seeks to manifest immediate solutions to Oakland’s housing crisis thru a comprehensive, diverse and multifaceted humane approach that puts the voices, needs and solutions of Oakland’s displaced front and center. We seek to build homes and services for Oakland’s unhoused, and provide support on the path towards self-sufficiency.
For press images and video, please contact Needa Bee at (510) 355-7010 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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