Oakland, CA – On December 6, without warning, Mayor Libby Schaaf and her administration violently evicted the 13 residents of the Housing and Dignity Village (HDV), a service hub at S Elmhurst Avenue and Edes Avenue in Deep East Oakland. Over 20 Oakland Police officers were present to lead residents away in handcuffs, as Public Works employees worked overtime to destroy everything on site. On Thursday, Shady Schaaf and her administration showed the people of Oakland that they are liars, that you cannot trust a word they say, that they have absolutely no problem sanctioning violence against unhoused Black and Brown families, and that they truly do not have any respect for or give a fuck about the people of Oakland.
Thursday’s violent eviction of HDV followed a blocked eviction on December 5. For four hours, residents refused to move because in truth there was no adequate housing available for us. Folks from all over Oakland stood between us and the police. The people of oakland made it clear that they did not support this eviction, and their presence prevented police and members of the Department of Public Works from entering. Candice Elder of the East Oakland Collective and Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice negotiated an alternative to eviction. After four hours in the rain, in front of a crowd of dozens, City representatives, member of Councilmember Larry Reid’s office, and the Department of Human Services told HDV residents, advocates, lawyers and brookfield neighbors that HDV residents would not be evicted until all the residents, advocates and legal team could sit down to a roundtable discussion with the city about a viable solution.
The City of Oakland’s statement to the press, released shortly after officials left HDV on Wednesday, is full of lies. It claims that officials never agreed to pause evictions; that they did not agree to a roundtable meeting; that 15 residents were offered housing, and all residents accepted; and that the City would not throw away belongings. In reality, only 13 people lived at HDV, and the City’s incorrect number reflects the level of effort they put in to actually do what they told the federal judge they would do. In truth, seven residents were not offered adequate housing. The remaining six were offered housing only after City officials and staff scrambled during that 4 hour negotiation period to “override” the shelter system and remove other unsheltered brothers and sister from waiting lists and shelter beds to accommodate HDV residents. This was told to our legal time and our advocates.
24 hours after agreeing to sit at a roundtable with us, city employees swarmed HDV in a surprise raid. The agreed-upon meeting never happened. None of us were offered shelter, our belonging were tossed and broken.
At the time of the eviction, most residents were off-site at work or handling business, the children were at school. During the eviction our children were in limbo uncertain of what was going to happen and where they would go that night or the next. As for the four residents on site who were ambushed: One resident was working on a visual arts piece for the City of Berkeley Arts Commission, one resident was getting dressed to go to work, one resident was fixing the village generator station, one resident was resting. We were not allowed to pack. We were not given time to pack. Coverage by independent journalists, corporate media and social media streams shows residents’ belongings were trashed.
To this day none of us have received phone calls from the administration, larry reids office or human services to see our status. They do not know where we are and they have no indication of the consequences of their lies and violent eviction on our safety and stability. We and all other unsheltered oaklanders are not their concern – as long as we are out of sight they are happy. As long as we are not doing for ourselves and the neighborhoods they neglect they are happy.
Yesterday one of us called a shelter were were told would provide us with housing. When the mama identified herself as a member of the hdv she was informed that the shelter worker is not allowed to talk about anything related to HDV and hung up on her. She and her children as do all of us remain on the streets.
We have asked several times why are we being evicted? Why does joe devries insist we are criminals and our attempts to assert our need and right for sanctuary is illegal? We are clean and sober, we are highly organized, we are the only encampment expliciting serving women and their families. We are the only encampment providing services and resources to our housed and unhoused neighbors. Why us? Our questions were met with silence. The other encampments on public land are left alone at best, at worse they are neglected – even when they are in deep crisis, even when they are riddled with criminal behavior and violence. So why us?
We are certain it is because when we speak we are not only speaking for ourselves but for the at least 9,000 other unsheltered brothers and sisters in oakland. We were evicted in an attempt to silence us. We are also certain we were evicted as confirmed from community members joe has spoken to “punish” us for attempting to provide ourselves with sanctuary. How dare we seek shelter and safety from the streets. Who the fuck do we think we are to think we deserve basic human needs and rights? We are human beings, some of oakland’s most vulnerable, but also most resilient.
Apparently nate miley from alameda county board of Supes understands this.and came to HDV to see what we were doing and offer his support. Alameda county District Attorney nancy o’malley understands and supports us and has agreed to not prosecute any of us if were were arrested. Assemblyman rob bonta understands this and also came to visit the HDV and offer his support. Senator Nancy Skinner supports us. Senator Barbara lee supports us too. All these elected officials called shifty schafft to tell her to not evict. And she would not listen, but rather continued the logic to criminalize us and lie about us. Why did not a single one of you come to visit the housing and dignity village?
We know libby is a bully and a liar who has not a care for Oaklands Black and Brown families, despite her diversity media stunts and lip service. We hope that you city council take the higher moral ground and make decisions based on justice, integrity, equity, compassion and truth. We hope your fear of libby damaging your political careers will not deafen you to the moral outrage our violent eviction and destruction of our home has sparked across the bay area. The bay is pissed. Who do you stand with? A lying bully selling the town off the town or the people of oakland and beyond who are demanding you tap into your humanity?
We demand Libby, City officials and staff that broke their promise to us be held accountable for lying to us and the public.
We demand Libby and the City cease all evictions and instead upgrade encampments. We believe California has more than enough wealth – much of it stolen from the Black, Indigenous, and Brown ancestors of people currently experiencing homelessness – to improve the quality of life of unhoused residents until permanent housing is available. We demand that special attention is paid to the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing report and recommendations.
We demand a new parcel of land for Housing & Dignity Village to rebuild our Home. The trauma Libby and her administration have caused our children is undeniable and unforgivable. The disruption caused in our lives for no good reason is unconscionable. The use of workers to destroy our belongings and violate our human right to assert our right to housing when you the city have failed to do so is criminal.
We demand that you not harm the residents of e12 and 23rd who have already been repeatedly traumatized by the administration and opd in an attempt to set the village up for failure. Do not engage in the mayor and the administration’s petty attempt to “punish” the village for the HDV. do not revoke your original vote on the miller ave property.
The Trump administration is lying to the public, criminalizes the marginalized, destroys sanctuary, refuses to acknowledge the United Nations human rights reports. It’s horrific that in Oakland, California – the Home of progressive thinking and radical movements – the practices of the newly re-elected Mayor, who claims to be a #Resistance leader, mirror the facism of Trump.
The response from Candice Elder, Founder & Executive Director of The East Oakland Collective
The City of Oakland is running with the narrative that the 13 residents of Housing and Dignity Village (“HDV”) refused shelter, so they deserved eviction. Yes they did refuse the offer of temporary shelter beds. The 13 residents of HDV united together to 1) ensure all 13 would be offered shelter before anyone leaves, AND more importantly 2) refused shelter beds because the City was pushing OTHER unhoused people down the shelter bed list to accommodate HDV residents.
Shelter beds would have been more temporary than the Housing and Dignity Village they were evicted from. They refused as some of the residents called shelter beds a “downgrade” to the safe, clean, sober and intentional community where they were safe. HDV was their preferred temporary home, and it was more like home. As of the day of the first eviction attempt on 12/5, the City of Oakland was still scrambling to find beds for some of the residents that had pets and minors. Also some of the shelter beds were offered outside of Oakland and that would not work for most of the residents.
The City of Oakland is doing everything to ignore the recommendations of the UN to upgrade informal settlements and stop evictions until adequate housing is provided.
I believe the City also evicted this community faster than any other because a large piece of City owned property was reclaimed by the people, for the people. Reason why we need to have a public lands policy in place that not only includes deeply affordable housing but to allow use of public land to temporarily house the unhoused until there is more permanent solutions.
I am so proud of the residents of HDV. They continue to be examples of resilience and resistance.
Response from Margaretta Lin, Executive Director of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice
Yesterday, I bore witness to a grave human rights atrocity. This did not occur in a Red State, but here in Oakland, California. Organized by The Village and The East Oakland Collective, unhoused women and children and their supporters took over blighted public land, cleaned up the trash, and began to build homes that were safe and dignified. As we all know, unhoused women and children are extremely vulnerable to great abuse and have very limited housing options. They said they chose the vacant public land at Clara and Edes because it had a fence so that they could be safe from violence and abuse. They set up a medical tent for doctors to provide services to the community. They provided food for the neighbors. They took care of one another so that mothers could work nights or go to school.
Some of the neighbors had legitimate concerns that needed to be addressed through problem solving mediation that Baba Arnold Perkins had volunteered to conduct. So why did no meeting between the City of Oakland, the unhoused residents, and the neighbors occur? Why were the unhoused advocates told by the City of Oakland on Wednesday when there were crowds of supporters and media that the eviction scheduled for Wednesday would not occur until there was a meeting, to only have OPD and Public Works show up the next day to demolish their homes and forcibly evict people? Why did my friends, Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilmember Larry Reid support an action that the United Nations a month ago said violated international human rights and was “cruel and inhumane”?
So what can we, who stand for justice for all peoples, do now? Friends in the local and national media like Anna Martin Ise Lyfe, Elizabeth Shogren, Darwin BondGraham, Ken Epstein can you do in-depth profile and investigative stories to help prevent this atrocity from occurring again? Anna Martin–I see an amazing This American Life story profiling the unhoused women’s resilience to rebuild their housing and community in the wake of the City’s demolition and eviction.
Friends in policy research like John A. Powell Julie Nelson Michael McAfee Kalima Rose Eli Moore Joe Brooks can you work with us and boona cheema to craft the nation’s best Equity in Housing and Human Rights policy for Oakland electeds like Nikki Fortunato Bas Rebecca Kaplan Dan Kalb to champion so that our beloved community of Oakland ends these human rights violations?
Friends who are political leaders who had the benefit of being mentored by Ron Dellums like Barbara Lee, Rob Bonta, Keith Carson Nate Miley Ben Bartlett can you exercise your political capital with your friends in Oakland City Hall–ask them why they directed or allowed for this human rights atrocity to occur last night and on other nights?
Friends in activism–continue doing what you already do–showing up for the oppressed and discriminated against.
What happened last night can’t continue. It’s against everything that we say we stand for–human rights and decency. I believe that this is our Selma–a defining moment of our times. Thank you for your willingness to stand with people whose only crime is to not have housing.
Response from Frank Sosa, Community Member
So make no mistake about Oakland’s homeless encampment policy. Oakland has camps everywhere, so much so that they often are fire hazards and health hazards. Oakland seems to be just fine with that, but the minute a camp is politicized, organized, drug free, and safe for womyn and children, the city will shut you down with a quickness. Even if that camp has made the neighborhood they are in cleaner than it was before thus raising property values. Heaven forbid, houseless folks should be organized and look out for each other.
Response From The Village
We The Village, state firmly that housing is a human right and the 9,000 -14,000 unsheltered residents of oakland need to be the city’s number one priority to build immediate permanent housing and immediate dignified transitional housing.
We acknowledge that the city administration has either attempted to destroy what we attempt to do, criminalize what we do, co-opt and capitalize what we do, or worked with us in bad faith. In fact, while The City was getting ready to destroy Housing and Dignity Village, it released a request for funding asking non-profits to carry out the entire Village program design – which we submitted to The City in February 2017, April 2017 and again in September 2017.
The bulldozing and eviction of 16 residents from the Promise Land Village on Feb 2, 2017 has never been rectified and the residents continue to be homeless.
The herding of rival gangs, folks in mental health crisis, and rival families since October 2017 to present day, to the E12 & 23rd Ave. Village, and the continued herding of unsheltered folks onto the land by OPD is a clear sabatouge to our vision and efforts. As are the city’s refusual to provide adequate trash pick up, and properly serviced portapoties. It also caused harm to our leadership, our volunteers, the individuals herded there and the surrounding neighborhood. These actions were criminal, harmful and dangerous and have yet to be rectified.
The Tuff Shed sites are nothing but an institutional mutation of the village program design and vision that barely scratches the surface of the crisis, wastes millions on dollars in money and resources while violating residents autonomy, dignity, safety. Its nothing more than a nicely packaged cosmetic attempt to shut down and shuffle around sprawling encampments. The only permanent housing people are offered are a bus ticket out of oakland
And the latest attack on the Village efforts: the violent eviction of the highly organized, clean and sober housing and dignity village – was a continuation of the attacks on our work and attempted criminalization of our leadership
And according to community leaders who have spoken to joe de vries taking away the Miller Ave site immediately after the bulldozed the housing and dignity village – a site the city council voted to give us to open a harm reduction site – is nothing but a petty attempt to punish us for creating housing and dignity village, our unsheltered leadership asserting their constitutional right, and reacting to this crisis as the emergency it is.
Unlike the administration, we the village have spent two years talking with unhoused folks to design temporary emergency shelters and blueprints for villages. We have been able to create a solution that is a United Nations model for how to address this crisis at hand.
Its a shame that the mayor and administration and city council will not work with us. It is as shame that the same time the city was getting ready to bulldoze us and take away the property the agreed to let us manage on miller avenue, they were also releasing a request for funding to funnel federal, state, county, city and private monies to non profits to fund a mutated version of our entire program design.