Housing is a human right! There is nowhere to go and denial of resources is a violation of human rights and constitutes “cruel and inhuman treatment” by the United Nations. We as unsheltered women who face the constant threat of physical and sexual violence in Oakland streets have decided to exercise our rights to house ourselves, our families and each other so that we can exist in safety; to provide resources for ourselves, our loved ones and the community around us. We as housed residents of Oakland stand in solidarity with this act of self determination and survival by unhoused women and their families. And we will continue to do so until our demands are met!
- Upgrade! Don’t Evict!
- Public Land for Public Good!
- Public Land In Public Hands!
- Include Section 8 in Oakland’s Condos and Luxury Apartments!
- NO MORE EVICTIONS! NO MORE SWEEPS!
- Homelessness Is Not A Crime!
- No More Tuff Sheds!
- Public Review & Rule of all programs and services and conditions related to curbside communities!
- All current residents of Two Three Hunid Tent City located on East 12th Street and 23rd Avenue receive immediate permanent housing.
How did The Housing & Dignity Village get started & why?
On the morning of Saturday, October 27, 2018, a coalition of Oakland community members took over a city-owned plot of land at Edes Avenue and Elmhurst Avenue in Deep East Oakland, on Chochenyo Ohlone land. They moved in a medical tent, an outdoor kitchen, supplies for a small community garden, and other services.
They are declaring it a service hub for curbside communities in the area, who have been deprived of basic services by the City of Oakland. It has been named Housing and Dignity Village, and is a sober encampment for the unhoused cisgender and trans women of Oakland, their partners, and their children. As the Community Resource Center and Garden, the Housing and Dignity Village will be a service and community hub for housed and unhoused neighbors.
The coalition includes unhoused and housed Oakland residents from the grassroots community group The Village, members of The East Oakland Collective, and advocates for the human rights of curbside communities. The group denounces city officials’ lack of public land policy that benefits the working class Black and Brown communities who are Oakland’s longest-term residents. This action proclaims that housing is a human right, and housing should be available to all. In particular, it highlights the experience of unsheltered women, and declares their right to safety and long term housing, despite their “unique vulnerability to violence and sexual assault” (UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing), and the high rate of homelessness for survivors of domestic violence (between 22 and 57% of all homeless women report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness).
In establishing this space, the coalition proclaims that homelessness is a woman’s issue, and registers the hypocrisy of the Mayor, who has written publicly in support of the #MeToo movement, in her gross negligence of the unhoused women and LGBTQIA people of Oakland. These encampment residents’ vulnerability to sexual abuse is a direct result of the absence of any significant low-income housing policy from Libby Schaaf’s office.
This reclaiming of public land for public good also demonstrates the tenacity of the community to provide for one another, especially those living on the street, in a dignified and compassionate manner when the city refuses to do so. The organizers seek to engage the neighborhood surrounding The Housing and Dignity Village in developing a vision for the parcel that benefits the needs of both the housed residents, and the large curbside community in the area.
November 7, 2019 – A day after she was re-elected as Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf gave her first press conference at the St. Vincent De Paul homeless shelter, while her administration was delivering eviction notices to two Deep East Oakland encampments, including The Housing and Dignity Village.
At least seven residents of HDV and three housed allies decided to resist this eviction scheduled Saturday, November 10, beginning at 7:30 AM. The eviction resistance put them at the risk of arrest. Housing & Dignity Village called for advocates, allies, supporters and press to join them for copwatch, support, and to witness unsheltered peoples asserting their right to safe shelter on public land.
County Supervisor Nate Miley and his staff visited HDV the day before the eviction notices were posted and expressed support, appreciation, and the desire to follow The United Nations recent recommendations to upgrade – not evict – encampments.
Schaaf’s threat of eviction comes less than a month after the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farhai, released a report on global unsanctioned settlements like the Housing and Dignity Village. Policies “denying access to water, sanitation and other basic necessities, constitute cruel and inhuman treatment and violate the rights to housing, health, water and sanitation and the right to life,” Farhai wrote. HDV echoes Farhai’s report in stating that housing is a human right, and housing should be available to all.
The United Nations report also cited the “unique vulnerability to violence and sexual assault” of women and girls in curbside communities. HDV highlighted homelessness as a women’s issue and denounced the Mayor’s hypocrisy for publicly supporting the #MeToo movement while creating conditions that make unhoused women and LGBTQIA people extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse.
HDV also called on the recent 9th Circuit Court decision in Martin vs. Boise, which declares “as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”
While HDV was mobilizing for the eviction, the residents also filed a last minute temporary restraining order (TRO), a preliminary injunction and a civil rights law suit. Judge Gilliman granted the TRO! And rather than resist an eviction, hundreds of people came thru all weekend building our village up instead of tearing it down.
The People vs. The City of Oakland (known in the courtroom as Miralle vs. The City of Oakland, Libby Schaaf and Joe De Vries) had it’s first day in court November 13, 2018 for the judge to decide whether we needed a temporary restraining order. Judge Gilliman agreed that we needed a TRO, and then set a hearing for a preliminary injunction – which would be a more permanent restraining order for the duration for our complaint of violations to our civil rights. Our side of the courtroom was overflowing with community. There was no one who showed up in support of The City. Our legal team is the stuff civil rights dreams are made of: Joshua Piovia-Scott with Hadsell Stormer & Renick; Emily Rose with Siegel & Bee; Osha Neuman, Pamela Price, Andrea from East Bay Community Law Center, Angelo Sandoval with Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, David Bouvay, Steven de Caprio with Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute.
However, two weeks later the judge were denied us a preliminary injunction against eviction. We argued that The City’s practice of forced evictions violates our Eighth Amendment Rights. We cited Martin vs. Boise, a recent ruling that unhoused people who are staying on public land when adequate shelter is unavailable should not be criminalized. In his denial of the preliminary injunction, the presiding Judge Hon. Haywood Gilliam, Jr. accepted the City’s false claims that HDV residents were offered shelter but refused, and that the City does not criminalize unhoused people for being on public land – overlooking dozens of sworn testimonies by unhoused Oakland residents.
Residents, attorneys and advocates stand firm that the shelter offered by the City is absolutely inadequate. In Oakland, there are 460 shelter beds total available for over 9,000 unsheltered people on any given night. These 460 shelter beds do not serve women with children, people with pets, or any working person who has night shifts. Under this criteria, a majority of residents of HDV are totally excluded from shelters, which are often only available for one night.
All six plaintiffs and seven other HDV residents decided to have, witnesses accompany them and documented where exactly the city planed on “housing” them for the still-ongoing civil rights lawsuit.
Residents and plaintiffs also cited a new civil rights violation through this eviction: a silencing of the well-organized camp’s First Amendment rights.
Residents assert The City shut down because they are outspoken advocates, not just for themselves but for all unhoused people in Oakland. The eviction targeted their political engagement rather than the bogus health and safety concerns The City used as their reasoning to evict. Meanwhile encampments throughout Oakland in crisis are neglected and ignored.
Advocates flooded City, County, State and Federal officials with calls and emails to stop this unjustifiable, cruel and unusual eviction. Once again, supporters called to upgrade and support, rather than criminalize and evict encampments as state in the United Nations report:
“Attempting to discourage residents from remaining in informal settlements or encampments by denying access to water, sanitation and health services and other basic necessities, as has been witnessed by the Special Rapporteur in San Francisco and Oakland, California, United States of America, constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment and is a violation of multiple human rights, including the rights to life, housing, health and water and sanitation. [Para 46, emph. added]”
The eviction was scheduled to occur on Wednesday, December 5th at 7:30 a.m. Once again housed and unhoused supporters from all over Oakland stood in solidarity with HDV that day as they demand the City upgrade, not evict, the encampment.
Armed with coffee and pastries, a small group of homeless advocates gathered early morning in the rain in front of the female-led homeless encampment.
They’d come to protest the city’s scheduled eviction of the encampment’s 13 inhabitants, a female-led group living on this city-owned empty lot for more than a month, a site they named the Housing and Dignity Village.
By late midmorning, as rain came in fits and starts, the group had grown to about 50 people, while the residents they’d come to support stood watch behind the site’s locked gate.
The makeshift site, which residents describe as a safe, drug-fee community, is a collection of trailers and orderly tents set up alongside a composting toilet and larger communal tent. Residents have access to food and some medical services and are protected by a large iron fence.
But Oakland officials argue that inhabitants broke into the fenced-off area and have been illegally occupying a site for which the city is ultimately liable.
The city’s first attempt to evict residents of the encampment was blocked in early November when a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order. But last week, the same judge ruledthat as long as the city could provide residents with alternate shelter options, it could legally evict them.
“It’s a little disappointing that we are here the morning of the eviction, and shelter hasn’t been set up or sorted out for the residents,” said Joshua Piovia-Scott, an attorney representing the homeless group. “Because that is exactly what the judge had ordered to happen.”
But Karen Boyd, a spokeswoman for the city administrator’s office, denied this claim. In a statement, she said that city staff have been on-site, engaging with residents to determine their specific shelter needs, and providing compassionate options.
The city “has offered the residents every opportunity for shelter,” Boyd said.
But residents said that shelter options offered by the city are insufficient. Some shelters, they said, don’t allow children or pets — a claim the city denies — or don’t accommodate people who work at night. Residents also worried that a promise of a shelter bed might last only for a day, even as city staff have “reassured them that they are able to stay for more than one night,” Boyd said.
But a few hours after the scheduled eviction, police and city officials left and Candice Elder, a homeless advocate, addressed the remaining crowd of supporters.
“We negotiated with the city to not evict today,” Elder said, to a round of cheers and applause. The city had promised to “sit down with the 13 residents and hear their stories, and negotiate a better process,” she said, emphasizing that should have been the plan from the start.
“You don’t do case management three days before you evict someone,” she said. “You don’t do case management after you serve an eviction notice. You’re supposed to sit down with these folks and treat them with respect and dignity way before this. So we got them to do this now.”
The leader of the encampment, Anita de Asis, who goes by the name Needa Bee, said staying on the land is her goal, no matter the unlikelihood of the city agreeing to that.
“Why move us if we’re actually improving the situation not just for ourselves, but for the surrounding community,” she said, adding that the community fed 500 people on Thanksgiving. “There’s hundreds of people in this neighborhood who are homeless that use our services.”
Before they took over and cleaned up the lot, Bee said, it was full of trash, drug paraphernalia and human feces. She pointed out the compostable toilet and community garden, noting that residents have taken pride in this encampment.
Village resident Ayana Johnson took a moment to thank the supporters who had stayed.
“I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “If the whole city did this, we wouldn’t be fighting about some little land. We’d all have something.”
the city lied
We are standing in love and justice. We believe we will win. We are shining the light on the devil. The truth will prevail. We have a long way to go, and victory is not certain, but we still believe.
We are not just fighting for us. We are fighting for everyone who has been violently displaced by gentrification in Oakland and beyond who have no where to go.
“Dignity” – a short film by Oakland School of The Arts students, exploring how gentrification and homelessness impact Oakland women.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvnLRb6OEAI