City of Oakland still blocks a homeless people’s solution to homelessness
by Tiburcio Garcia, Poverty Skola, POOR Magazine
$40,000 is enough to buy a car. $40,000 could feed my family for 10 years. I have never seen that much money in my life, yet the only way I can move from a couch to an actual bedroom, along with my Homefulness family, many of whom are in far worse living situations than I, is to fork over $40,000 to the City of Oakland’s Building Department.
What I don’t understand is why, after listening to our pleas for leniency and after many years and many thousands of dollars we have paid, the City of Oakland is holding us by our sneakers upside down and shaking us to see what falls out of our pockets.
I am 18 years old, and since I was 10 we have been fighting the city to get Homefulness, a homeless people’s solution for homelessness – or houselessness, as we call it – officially launched. They have not given one concession, one inch of ground that we didn’t fight tooth and nail for. All of the rings of fire that we jumped through these years have burned us and hardened our hearts, attempting to crush our hopes.
However, as it becomes obvious to the City of Oakland and the world that despite all of the insurmountable obstacles that have been put in front of us, we are nearing the finish line, the rings of fire that we have gotten used to have turned into walls of fire, taunting us with one option. Walk through, and get burned in the process.
“[In 2019], before the holidays, [the City of Oakland] shut down the Homefulness building process all together, saying we ‘took too long’ to build, and assessed an ‘impact fee’ which is supposedly to support low-income housing projects, as well as told us we had to start all over again.” Those are the words of my mom, Tiny, aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, talking about the City’s reason why we have to pay this $40,000.
If the City of Oakland operated the way they said they did, if they lived up to the image that they display in public, any and all impact fees would be going to Homefulness and other non-profit organizations that create templates for housing houseless people – but that isn’t the case.
The twisted thing about them using this excuse to keep us from housing the houseless community is this money will supposedly go to people who create low-income housing, housing that makes it easier for houseless people to be housed.
OK, that sounds good – so the impact fee of $40,000 we pay to the City will go back to us right? Oh, and also all the impact fees of all the corporations who have been gentrifuking East Oakland will go to us also right?
If the City of Oakland operated the way they said they did, if they lived up to the image that they display in public, any and all impact fees would be going to Homefulness and other non-profit organizations that create templates for housing houseless people, templates that don’t hurt anyone and even benefit the previous owners of the land of the new Homefulnesses – but that isn’t the case.
The City of Oakland is fleecing us for more than we have; they are closing down much-needed, already underfunded public schools and building an $850 million A’s stadium that is completely unnecessary, seeing as we already have an A’s stadium that connects to the Coliseum BART Station.
Actions speak louder than words, and those actions tell us volumes. The City of Oakland is charging us $40,000 for an impact fee that we can’t pay, because we are late to a project they keep delaying. But we aren’t stopping.
We aren’t fighting for some mighty cause or trying to prove a point. We are houseless people trying to house ourselves and other houseless people, and we won’t give up until, like my mom says, “we Homefulness the world.”
Postscript: In June 2022, we are moving in the mamahouses with or without the City’s permission. We hope you join us in a prayer circle for Houseless mamas being homeful. Email email@example.com for dates.
Tiburcio Garcia is an activist, journalist and poverty skola with POOR Magazine and Poor News Network. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, visit www.poormagazine.org and www.racepovertymediajustice.org.