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On Oct. 27, 2018, a group of homeless people moved to a vacant city-owned lot in East Oakland. They named this encampment “Housing and Dignity Village”; it was a drug-free site for sober, unsheltered women and their families. But on Nov. 7, 2018, the city posted a 72-hour notice for them to leave. On Nov. 9, 2018, Housing and Dignity Village sued the city asking that they not be evicted from the site. Their case was called Miralle v. City of Oakland.
On Sept. 4, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that cities may not punish homeless people for sleeping outside in public spaces if they do not have access to shelter elsewhere. The case – Martin v. City of Boise – started way back in 2009, when six current and formerly homeless residents of Boise, Idaho, sued the city for giving citations to people who were sleeping outside. The lawsuit rested on the notion that these citations violated the Eighth Amendment rights of Boise’s homeless residents, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.
San Francisco is a rich city! This election gives voters, including those of us on the “poor side of town,” the rare opportunity to spend some of that wealth on ourselves, the people who need it most. TODAY, on Nov. 6, 2018, we can vote for local Proposition C to house the homeless – put on the ballot by homeless people – and we can vote for state Prop 10 to control sky-rocketing rents to protect ourselves from the threat of homelessness. Here in District 10, we can relive the glory days when BVHP was a force for City Hall to contend with and the oldtimers told us to “VOTE 100%” -- meaning we should all vote, and on critical issues we should vote as a block.
A white jogger throwing a Black homeless man’s property into Lake Merritt. A well-dressed man kicking a sleeping man’s face so severely he was hospitalized. The owner of a local club circulating death threats to homeless people and chasing a camper with a gun. These are just some of the publicized events. Of course, people forced to live outdoors face this and worse on a regular basis.
California Penal Code 422.55 defines “hate crime” as a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of the victim’s disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. There are multiple state hate crime laws that provide enhanced penalties for violating the rights of people in one of those protected groups. Recently, acts of violence against the homeless have been caught on tape and circulated on the media. They show that cities like San Francisco and Oakland should enact their own local laws adding their homeless citizens to that list of protected groups.
There we were – the unhoused, the evicted, the displaced, the disabled, Black, Brown, Indigenous, poor white, youth and elders on one accord, all colors, all nations, all cultures, all ages, all abilities. The 2018 Poor Peoples March on Washington was originally launched by impacted poor, houseless and formerly unhoused people from the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign 15 years ago. Poor folks walked in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor Peoples March on Washington in 1968.
Businesses asked the city to “do something” about the encampments. Perhaps it’s up to the businesses to work out something with the homeless. The solution to the conflict between the business and the homeless is not simply to evict the people. They will not find a solution to the conflict without talking directly to the homeless people. At these discussions, the homeless must be respected and treated equally. They must be treated like citizens with their own needs, not as problems. Businesses could benefit from such discussions.
We youth scholars from Deecolonize Academy and POOR Magazine submitted 14 Freedom of Information Act requests to 14 departments in the City of Oakland, only to receive a series of messages from two of the departments saying, “We have no documents,” and no word from the others. On Jan. 16, we will be making a demand to the City of Oakland and AC Transit that, with the money they received for BRT, they support Oakland residents to be able to stay here as reparations for the millions of dollars they are receiving to displace us out of here.
The rubber sides of the boat were like arms – thick, round, hard. “These are the boats refugees have to travel in. Men sit on the side, the women, children and elders in the middle, sometimes getting splashed and sick with the leaking gasoline from the engine because they are covering miles of ocean to go from one country to another.” The tour guide from Médecins Sans Frontières, known in English as Doctors Without Borders, was narrating the “Forced From Home” traveling exhibit of removal, imperialist wars and NGO and government abuse of indigenous bodies across the Global South.
On Oct. 13, 2017, San Francisco Bay View posted my essay “Hipsters de-Blacken Oakland, cause the encampments they abhor.” In the essay, I argued that Oakland leaders helped displace mainly native African American Oaklanders in order to make room for the hipsters and gentrifiers. Thus, the hipsters and gentrifiers have a duty to help solve the homeless crisis. However, several commenters to my essay showed ignorance or denial in defending their “innocence.”
For those who are trapped here, San Francisco’s Treasure island shares similarities with a death camp they can’t escape. Men, women and children are stricken with tumors and cancers from exposure to radiation, chemicals and lead the Navy dumped into island soil during 50 years training sailors for nuclear war, as well as lung disease from asbestos and mold in the walls of military housing.
It’s Friday afternoon at the drop-in center known as Mother Brown’s on the corner of Jennings Street and Van Dyke Avenue. Despite the iron-gated door fronting the entrance, people drop in freely to check their mail, take a shower, do laundry or chill out in the reception area. For a nominal fee, Mother Brown’s rents out lockers. Gwendolyn Westbrook, the director of the United Council of Human Services – the official name of Mother Brown’s – as well as staff, describe the place as a community center. Client Johnny Scott likens Mother Brown’s to a family. “This here is a place where people get along,” he says.
The Concerned Network of Women partnered with the United Council of Human Services, governed by Gwendolyn Westbrook and Dr. Betty McGee, to issue hand warmers and hot chili to homeless people. On New Year’s Eve, we visited the homeless living under the Cesar Chavez Freeway exit. While under the freeway, we witnessed an eviction notice dated Dec. 29, 2016. Evicting the homeless serves little purpose, other than further implying that homeless people have no human and/or civil rights. Here is one solution: Bring services to the encampment, not locks and chains.
It was the first time I’d ever attended a Police Review Commission meeting in Berkeley. Together with nine other community members, we went to express our opposition to three terrible policies of the city government and its police department: 1. Repeated police raids on homeless encampments, 2. City participation in the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center and its domestic spying operation, and 3. City participation in the Urban Areas Security Initiative.
Homeless people and their allies will be honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign and Resurrection City on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 12:00-2:30 p.m., at Civic Center Plaza. They are gathering as part of Martin Luther King Day protests occurring across the West Coast, including Denver, Sacramento, Salinas, Oakland and Portland, to highlight increased criminalization of homeless people and to protect the rights of poor people, along with the Reclaim MLK Day 120 Hours of Action.
Oakland needs the motto “Love Life” as a way of spreading brotherly-sisterly love to everyone. To put it differently, “love thy neighbor,” even if you live in a luxury apartment and your neighbor lives in an encampment. Oakland had a visible homeless community even before people started calling it the “new” Oakland. Treating people like trash and clearing homeless encampments are acts of violence because they violate someone’s humanity – no matter what excuse is used to justify it.
A shooting by police officers of a homeless man camping on Shotwell Street near 18th Street occurred in the Mission Thursday, April 7. On Friday, the Medical Examiner identified the victim as 45-year-old Luis Gongora, a San Francisco resident. This shooting happened less than 24 hours after a late-night Police Commission meeting at which members of the Police Officers Association fought against changes to the Department General Order concerning use of force.
NO PEACE UNTIL JUSTICE IS SERVED OVER THE POLICE KILLING OF 26-year-old MARIO WOODS, a HUMAN BEING, MASSACRED BY five SF POLICE officers on DEC 2, in the Bayview, on THIRD STREET, between Fitzgerald and Hollister, across from CORNERSTONE BAPTIST CHURCH, at Third and Paul, where funeral services were held days later. SHOCKING to see a video, aired on TV, taken at the scene, of the killing!!! HORRIBLE – UNTHINKABLE!!!
At a time that the Department of Justice is calling the citing, arresting and forced displacement of homeless people for sleeping cruel and unusual punishment, new data from the SFPD indicates that it is fully engaged in this practice: Homeless people received 11,920 citations for resting in public space in 2014. A total of 13,390 citations were given to homeless people for anti-homeless “offenses.”
The Coalition on Homelessness Report, “Punishing the Poorest: How the Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty in San Francisco,” details the effects of criminalization on homeless residents of San Francisco. The COH report documents and analyzes the impacts of the rising tide of anti-homeless laws in our era of mass incarceration on those experiencing homelessness in San Francisco.
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