Overwelmed by the growing homeless crisis, a mother and daughter gathered friends and family with one simple mission – to show love on the streets. January 2016 Needa Bee and Joyous began a night of service that quickly avalanched into the People’s Response to the housing & homeless crisis. On the coldest night of the winter of December 2016, the kru was making their rounds in the encampments. Nearly everyone was deathly ill or in the hospital. It was on that night on the freezing streets, that Feed The People decided in the face of a local government that prioritized money driven development at the cost of a homeless crisis they were ignoring to start building homes for their unhoused brothers and sisters by any means.
There are over 2,700 people homeless in Oakland. Advocates are pushing Oakland officials to treat homelessness as an emergency. To see the full multimedia report by Lucas Guilkey click here: http://bit.ly/2Bengpj
The Village first popped up at Marcus Garvey Park on 36th Street and MLK in Oakland. On the morning of January 20, 2017 – while the rest of the world braced itself for the inauguration of Donald Trump as the president of the United States – Feed The People & Asians For Black Lives, allies of both organizations and curbside brothers and sisters, came together in the middle of the night to seize mismanaged and neglected public land. Under the camouflage of the hardest rainstorm of the year, 100 comrades and homies moved in three homes and supported a handful of curbside residents with packing and moving. By the end of the day, one RV, one camper, and four tents were moved in. And the frames and walls of three homes were up. Thus began day one of the 13 day direct action.
We intended to move in small homes, a hot shower, a healing clinic, and other services — declaring it a people’s encampment for those who need housing and basic needs and services. The action soon was called The Village, and grew to include more curbside community, local businesses and organizations, faith community, neighbors and activists from #FeedthePeople and #Asians4BlackLives, and residents thru out Oakland. We all agreed the Direct Action demonstrated our ability to provide what the City of Oakland would not provide to its most vulnerable residents.
We aimed to demonstrate through our visionary encampment that the human right of housing was accessible to all – even when the City and Developers have no will to do so. And in the face of a city government that fails to meet the needs of its people, it is possible for the community to unite to serve those on the street in a dignified and humane manner.
Our action took place a day after hundreds of thousands of people across the country took to the streets and declared their cities to be zones free from displacement, mass deportations, registries, attacks on poor people, and corporate giveaways of public goods. Instead, they called for protection and expansion of healthcare, housing, food, and free public education for all.
Housed folks who helped free up Marcus Garvey Park & became part of The Village “demonstrate our solidarity with the poor, curbside, and displaced people of Oakland, many of whom are Black and Brown. As #Asians4BlackLives, we realize that gentrification, inaccessible housing, and privatized public land are a part of the ongoing war on Black people, which also includes racist police violence. We support the leadership of the homeless folks moving into this camp, and stand together with them in the fight for dignity and the fight against displacement,” said Ellen Choy of #Asians4BlackLives.
The center of the Village became a community space reserved for daily people’s assemblies and provided services to the residents and the broader community in need. Volunteers started a health & healing clinic, hot home cooked meal service, 2 hot showers, raised gardens, a computer lab, adult education center, and a center for distributing donations to Oakland residents in need. The village was open to all who need services provided whether you live at the site or not.
News of the encampment spread like wildfire throughout Oakland’s homeless community who dubbed it “The Promise Land”. Folks said that unlike The City and non-profits, The Village made promises they kept.
The Village aka Promised Land was narcotics- and alcohol-free, and prioritized housing for Black and Brown folks, families, women, elders, and disabled folks. The encampment hoped to keep growing to be able to welcome more, to be inclusive for any homeless residents in Oakland to move in, and to offer the appropriate services to meet their needs. Organizers also hoped that their version of what a compassionate community looks like would inspire others to reclaim public land in other parts of Oakland, and The Bay Area, and the country, to build similar havens of safety, service, and community. 137 homeless residents signed up to get shelter and services at The Village and hoped to get the support they needed to get off drugs and alcohol.
However, in the early morning of February 2, 2017 Mayor Libby Schaff and her Administration sent a bulldozer and 80 pigs in riot gear to raid and bulldoze The Village. But the Mayor’s violent action and criminalization of Oakland’s humanitarian efforts merely turned our direct action into a powerful movement.
For eight months, The Village and its supports and allies asserted housing is a human right and that precious city resources should be used to build both temporary emergency shelters and permanent housing for the homeless. The Village stood firm in our vision and efforts should be legalized and protected. And in Fall 2017 The Village won with the City Council unanimously passing the Shelter Crisis Declaration which not only permitted and protected their efforts, but forced the Mayor and her administration to grant us a parcel of public property for a pilot program and work with us to ensure our success.
We were granted a one and a half acre of public property on E12th & 23rd Ave in East Oakland. But the administration did not move forward with us in good faith. For almost one year they blocked progress, sabotaged our work, herded unsheltered folks against their will and without communicating with us to the parcel, and created chaotic and life threatening conditions in an attempt to make sure we did not succeed. However, we could not be stopped.
In March 2018 we learned that the land we were granted was in fact not City-owned land. It was the state of California’s land, owned and operated by Cal Trans. Cal Trans had no idea the administration offered us the land and that we were building homes for a massive encampment that had grown to 80 residents. There was a 10 year plan in the making for Cal Trans to retrofit the overpass that spanned across the property and that The Village and the unsheltered residents herded onto the land would have to move. To date the eviction is scheduled for January 2019.
With the support of City Council, our allies and supporters we continue to negotiate for one to two public parcels of land to move onto and successfully manifest our vision. We are also negotiating with private landowners to use their plots for temporary and permanent housing. And we are in the process of making long term plans to purchase our own land.
In the meantime, Feed The People and The Village have collapsed into one entity that continues to provide hot meals, provisions, advocacy, defense, and support to dozens of encampments around Oakland. We create literature and media to change the narrative around homelessness and engage in work to decriminalize homelessness. We are involved in building powerful alliances and coalitions to achieve our goals. and continue to pressure the city to use its resources and networks to prioritize the only solution to homelessness: permanent housing for Oakland’s no income, low income and working-class residents. Unfortunately the administration is continuing to prioritize the development of unaffordable housing for middle class and high-income residents who do not live here yet, while wasting money on Tuff Shed Torture Camps.
We challenged the inaction of the City of Oakland, saying that the City has proven its disloyalty to its long term families displaced in this city-initiated housing crisis. We broadcasted that the City has not implemented sufficient efforts to address homelessness, such as building permanent public housing, starting with housing for those who have been displaced by the housing crisis, particularly Black and Brown people. We told the city to let the community build the temporary emergency housing solutions in the 100s of ways we could. We told them its the City’s job to build permanent housing for all.
Since that day the City has build zero units of permanent housing for curbside residents. And 60 tuff shed tool shed sites:
Anyone is welcome to join our movement! Please check our How to Get Involved Page to plug in, follow us on Facebook @The Village in Oakland, or go to our donation page to donate now!