A statement from The Village & Feed the People
You are being played, Oakland.
As the City continues to push forward with a third Tuff Shed lot in the Kaiser Auditorium parking lot, we are compelled to tell you the truth of how these sites are being used politically and what they are like on the inside.
When the people of Oakland moved the City Council to unanimously pass a Shelter Crisis Declaration Oct 3, 2017 that would immediately allow emergency temporary housing and services to be created as a pathway to permanent housing in the midst of this homeless state of emergency, using sanctioned sites as a pretext for area evictions and doubling people up in uninsulated tool sheds with no running water or electricity was not what we were talking about.
CITY SANCTIONED SITES = EVICTIONS
Each time the city has sanctioned a site for outdoor emergency use, an explicit part of their plans is to evict all other camps in the area. The “Compassionate Communities” at Peralta/35th, the tentative village site at 23rd&12th Ave, the first Tuff Shed yard at 5th and Brush, the second Tuff Shed at Northgate – all included explicit directives to OPD and DPW to evict all other camps in the area no matter how many people it would displace and put into motion. Despite the City’s numbers, the first Tuff Shed yard put over 100 people into motion while only providing slots for 40. The second Tuff Shed site left more than 60 people with nowhere to go. And this third Tuff Shed lot at the Kaiser parking lot is estimated to displace more than 100 people again. In each case only 40 spaces were available for temporary shelter.
In this way, these are programs more for camp suppression and eviction than providing entry to housing, herding our unhoused neighbors more out of sight away from services or driving them into a few now unsafe, filthy ‘mega-camps’ that these evictions are creating.
This third “ONC” (“Outdoor Navigation Center”) or Tuff Shed yard is to be no different. The city has planned that all residents around the Lake Merritt area are to be evicted, easily four times the number of people that could possibly be admitted to the 40 person Tuff Shed yard. The city claims that shelters will take in the overflow. This is nonsense. If this were in any way a realistic option, those camping on the street nextdoor would already be utilizing shelter beds. The City further assumes that their approach of staggering the evictions around Lake Merritt will allow for people to smoothly exit out of the Tuff Sheds to make room for the next wave of Lake Merritt evictions to move-in voluntarily.
However, if you ask unsheltered residents at Lake Merritt, a vast majority have no intention of moving into the Tuff Shed sites. In fact none of the Lake Merritt unsheltered residents were part of the planning process for this site. This is the same problematic procedure the other Tuff Shed sites implemented: no buy in or leadership from the people most impacted.
The city is still servicing appearances, creating photo ops for themselves and political cover for evictions more than facing the realities of our city and the homelessness crisis gripping it. And doing all this on the heels of last week’s 9th Circuit Court decision in Miller vs. Boise declared it is unconstitutional for a city to criminalize, move, evict, harass or take the property of any unsheltered residents when adequate housing is unavailable.
LIFE ON THE INSIDE OF A TUFF SHED CAMP
Increased policing, poor conditions, group punishments
A testimony from a recently evicted resident of the Tuff Shed site on 5th Street (see video https://www.facebook.com/731643677003021/videos/967948560039197/) exposes inhumane and substandard living conditions that the city has applauded and promised to replicate. The Tuff Sheds themselves, with a total lack of insulation and hardly any ventilation, are not satisfactory for human beings to live in to begin with. A tiny window is the only form of lighting, leaving disabled residents struggling to get around or see what they are doing. Based on testimonies from former and current residents, both West Oakland Tuff Shed sites are run through coercion, bullying and neglecting the residents, and especially the disabled and mentally ill. Residents report that the staff has used their power to force cooperation by withholding food, donated provisions, water and electricity as forms of collective punishment – and even by resorting to violence.
Residents report that the food has made them sick, they are not allowed visitors, they have a strict curfew, have to file grievances to the very people they have issues with – making the environment feel like a prison.
SO WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
The city needs to invest and support community driven interim solutions such as The Village and stop wasting the public’s precious resources on failed debacles such as the Tuff Shed encampments.
The city needs to declare a full moratorium on camp evictions.
The city needs to place its resources towards PERMANENT HOUSING for no income, low income and working class households. Stop selling public lands for “affordable”, market rate and above market rate development. Stop using millions of public funds and donated resources towards temporary housing and build permanent housing now! That is the only solution to homelessness! Over the next 5 years there are more than 20,000 market rate and above market rate units slated to be built; there are just above 1,000 “affordable” units slated; there are zero working class, low income or no income units slated to be built.
If the City does not change its current course towards prioritizing money driven development, while ignoring Oakland’s vibrant families and criminalizing homelessness the crisis will not be solved – rather it will get horrifically worse.