Homeless Residents of Future Village Refuse to Wait For Basic Human Rights: Shelter, Water, Safety.
City Administration Created Unsafe Conditions on Land Offered To Grassroots Movement, Bureaucracy Slows Down Progress
Needa Bee, Phone: (510) 355-7010
(February 3, 2018 – Oakland, CA) – In his recent letter of Feb. 1, Joe DeVries, Asst. to the City Administrator, threatens and pressures Village supporters and residents to stop building their self-governed, volunteer driven homeless village claiming a direly needed security perimeter under construction is “unauthorized”.
The City of Oakland sanctioned this parcel at 23rd Ave and E.12th St. to “The Village”, a self-organized group of homeless Oaklanders and supporters, with one hand while sweeping and herding other encampments onto the same parcel with the other. The ensuing overcrowding combined with arbitrary city restrictions on community initiatives has led to squalid conditions and dire safety issues. The Village residents and supporters continue to build shelter and security over this Volunteer Build weekend with or without the blessing of the city administrator’s office.
“Why are we still in tents? The city gave The Village the land in October. And a few days later Oakland Police Department and Public Works moved us and our belongings to this land on trucks and told us to build homes,” said homeless resident and Village Administrative Team Member, Tracy Lee. “This is public land. Who’s the public? We are. The people. The Village is here to help us and that’s what they are doing.”
INTERVIEWS AVAILABLE: homeless Oaklanders and village residents; supporters, builders and volunteers; spokespeople from partner organizations; and neighbors to the village.
VISUALS: residents and supporters planting, building, and breaking bread together all day; the colorful perimeter fence of repurposed doors going up around newly constructed shelters for the womens and elders camp. A community mural. Trash pick and land preperations.
After they offered The Village land, the Administration closed down six encampments throughout East Oakland and herded them onto the site at 23rd Ave and E12th under an overpass. Residents and surrounding neighborhood all agree the results have been disastrous.
The one acre plot of land was intended to be filled with 40 tiny homes, a health/wellness/recovery center, computer lab, art studio, gardens, sanitation services, case management and classrooms for a variety of life skills and trade skill courses. The intention is to get people off the ground, out of tents and into temporary sturdy shelters, while providing support and services to get Oakland’s most vulnerable on their feet, achieving their goals and transitioning into permanent housing. But the administration filled this narrow parcel between an overpass and E12th with nearly 70 residents with more moving in every day.
“It’s not our fault they we are getting shuffled around and having our human and civil rights violated. We are humans and we deserve and need housing and support. Trying to get a place to live in Oakland is impossible. I’ve never seen Oakland like this,” said Tracy Lee, raised in Oakland. “And what the administration has created by moving all of us onto this land is a disaster. We not fittin’ to have people sick, raped, robbed, beaten, harassed or in danger anymore.”
The Administration was notified of the dangerous health and safety circumstances in a letter sent January 16, 2018. In the letter, both The Village organizers and the Two Three Hunid Ohlone Village residents informed the Administration that despite the Village and Admin still being in negotiations around details in the agreement with the City, immediate action needed to take place.
“Folks have been here building for two, three months now. And they are going to keep building. The city knows two women are out here dying and they could have been housed. Then why are they not housed? If people don’t feel safe and are telling you they don’t feel safe and the plan is to build them homes, then do it already!” said resident and Village onsite peacekeeper Joddi Everett.
There was no movement from the city administration on the matter. In fact, the administration asked for proof that the violence, and health and safety violations were even happening. Councilmembers, neighbors, nearby businesses and organizations, and most of all, the residents of the encampment want immediate action to happen.
One year ago, housed and unhoused community members of The Village undertook a direct action to create a Promised Land to provide shelter, food, first aid and other resources to Oakland’s homeless population, who the group believes has been failed by the city’s administration. Their 2017 efforts were bulldozed to the tune of $75,000 tax dollars
Despite the threat of continued, unnecessary and violent responses, The Village has been fighting for the creation of temporary and permanent housing solutions ever since. On Oct 3rd, 2017 City Council unanimously voted to: pass the shelter crisis declaration which grants The Village and other community groups and movements power to build unconventional shelters under deregulated housing codes in the face of a total lack of affordable housing and a growing health and human rights disaster. City Council also unanimously passed a resolution for the Administration to grant The Village land. Ever since the land was offered on Oct 5, four months ago, the residents say it’s been a frustrating and exhausting journey simply trying to provide for themselves without retaliation or obstruction.
The residents assert housing is a human right and that City Administration is violating the rights of low-income and unhoused people through repeated criminalization, forced removal, the herding of humans and deepening the crisis at the city owned parcel.
“We hope that the City of Oakland will understand the necessity for action. The Village and the City can keep on talking. But we are going to build. We have blueprints, a site plan, resources. The only thing that keeps getting in the way is the Mayor. They ignored homeless folks until they couldn’t ignore us anymore. We hope the Mayor and Administration do the right thing and support the community’s response. We hope the powers that be cease being bureaucrats and tap into their humanity and Spirit of The Town by responding to this situation with unrestricted kindness and compassion to save lives,” said Village co-founder Needa Bee.
Photos from The Village Groundbreak on Martin Luther King Day Weekend
Photos of The Village building this past week