By Needa Bee
Our homeless neighbors are some of the most resilient, independent, fiercest, smartest, compassionate, powerhouses you will ever meet in your life.
They are survivors who live in constant crisis everyday. And they get shit done. Many are parents, grandparents, workers, survivors. They hold down several jobs and/or hussles. They are resourceful and the masters of recycle, reuse, reimagine.
You can’t keep them down despite the obstacles they face:
An estimated 16,000 people experience homelessness in the county. Data compiled in the Alameda Countywide Shelter and Services Survey, May 2004 Report (ACSSS) found that:
- A vast majority of Alameda County’s homeless people live in Oakland (people in the streets think it’s more)
- We estimate at least 6,000 people are homeless in Oakland. Of that number, only 12% live in curbside communties in tent cities and encampments. A majority live in card\s, RVs and other vehicles.
- Many of the homeless were previously incarcerated, hospitalized or in Foster Care.
- Suffer chronic health conditions such as TB, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and hypertension at a much higher rate than housed individuals; treatment is difficult without a stable environment
- Utilize public services (e.g. hospital emergency rooms. Mental health facilities, jails) more frequently
- Usually experience higher rates of violence and victimization
- Many are husslers and working class folks who hold down one or more streams of income. Many are born and raised in Oakland. But due to gentrification and the outrageous housing market, many cannot afford the human right of housing
- Most folks who are homeless are living on the streets, in parks, in vehicles, couch surfing in the neighbors the once had housing in
What are the experiences of homeless mothers?
- Over 85% of homeless families are headed by women – specifically, by single women with children – and domestic violence is a principal cause homelessness among single mother families.
- Homeless families are typically headed by a young mother with 2 to 3 children, who did not finish high school or is unemployed
- Over 92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetime
- 63% report that this abuse was perpetrated by an intimate partner
- 1 of every 4 homeless women is homeless because of violence committed against her
- Inadequate housing and shelter options, evictions, discrimination, poverty, and other factors contribute to the crisis of homelessness caused by family violence. Furthermore, many women remain in an abusive relationship because of these barriers
Domestic and sexual violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and families, and 20–50% of all homeless women and children become homeless as a direct result of fleeing domestic violence.
Homeless women are far more likely to experience violence of all sorts compared with women who are not homeless because of a lack of personal security when living outdoors or in shelters
Domestic violence shelter providers are prohibited from reporting client information; therefore, estimates likely undercount the number of homeless women and families seeking shelter as a result of domestic violence.
What are the experiences of homeless children?
- Families make up 43% and children comprise 28% of the county’s homeless population.
- By age 12, 83% of homeless children had been exposed to at least one serious violent event
- Almost 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their families
- 15% have seen their father hit their mother
- 11% have seen their mother abused by a male partner
- Children who witness violence are more likely than those who have not to exhibit frequent aggressive and antisocial behavior, increased fearfulness, higher levels of depression and anxiety, and have a greater acceptance of violence as a means of resolving conflict
- Homeless children suffer more health problems than housed children: 38% of children in homeless shelters have asthma, middle ear infection prevalence is 50% higher than the national average, and over 60% of homeless children are under vaccinated (Redlener & Johnson, 1999)
- Nearly one-fifth of homeless children repeat a grade in school and 16% are enrolled in special education classes – rates 100% and 33% higher than housed children; much of this is largely due to their high mobility rate (Institute for Children and Poverty, 2001)
You cannot keep these women and children down. They get up everyday and do it again. Despite the crisis.
And yet the city of oakland the police and xenophobic gentrifuckers are determined to keep down, shuffle around, criminalize, terrorize, disrespect, steal from homeless women and homeless people in general.
The city of oakland declared a homeless state of emergency and said that we are in a housing crisis. Yet they have been too comfortable to realize the state of emergency themselves and have moving thru the mud with their responses to homelessness. We have a homeless crisis yet the homeless resident of this city continue to have their encampments destroyed by the city and police continue to treat the most vulnerable of our residents as criminals at a $10,000 per eviction price tag. We have a housing crisis caused by gentrification but gentrifiers don’t want to see the people they have displaced and use their race and class privilege and power to get the city to close down recycling centers and destroy encampments and shelters. We have a housing crisis though when we The Village aka the people of oakland created The Promise Land at marcus garvey park last in the end of this january 2017 – where we build homes for the unhoused, got 16 drug addict on the path of recovery and provided sanctuary from the streets for mostly elderly men and women – the city spent upwards of $75,000 to bulldoze homes, a donations distribution program, a community kitchen and a wellness center.
We have a woman who is the mayor of oakland. She likes to say she’s from the town but we have yet to see her act like shes from the town. Cuz the town takes care of each other. The town takes care of its homeless. Countless of individuals in oakland feed and clothe our most vulnerable on the streets of oakland. If libby was from the town she would have been ended this housinging crisis and taken care of the exploded homeless crisis instead of selling it to the highest bidder.
One thing we were clear about when we created The Village and built The Promise Land is that this government from the white house to city hall is ineffective, illegitimate and that we are ungovernable to them. That means it’s time to stop waiting on them to do something to help us and take matters in our own hands. Whether that means taking land to build homes and services, whether that means creating our own institution of public education. Whether that means creating our own health and wellness systems, whether that means creating our own alternatives to their policing system. It’s gonna be up to us to do this. This time of ineffective and illegitimate politicians who refuse to be the activist leaders we so desperately need right now is our call to come together in unity, govern ourselves, solve our own problems, and take control of our future. A future that puts women, indigenous peoples, Black folks, immigrants and all people who have historically and systematically oppressed – in the forefront.