Eviction, elder abuse, and homelessness

Why are so many elders and families on the street? They got evicted.

“I am being evicted from the home I was evicted to. I don’t know where to go now. I want to come back to Oakland, but if I do I will end up homeless in Oakland.”

Princess Beverly Williams, long-time Oakland resident, community organizer and elder, was holding back tears as she spoke to Po Peoples Revolutionary Radio last week.

Protesters remind us that evictions can be fatal.

Between February of 2014 to 2016, POOR Magazine made the case for elder and child abuse under penal codes 368 and 273a with over a dozen cases of elder and family evictions including 100 year old Black elder Iris Canada, Ron Likkers and Elaine Turner (who all died within days or weeks of being evicted from their longtime San Francisco homes) and presented them to District Attorney George Gascon who refused to file charges against the abusers. That continued a long-held practice of public officials protecting “private property ownership” over people.

Since then, the crisis we had has gotten so much worse. Because when elders and children are evicted it means abuse, trauma, homelessness, and often death for the victims.

RoofLESS radio unhoused reporters WeSearch report findings tells us that more than 88 percent of unhoused elders and families were evicted before they became unhoused.

In addition to the extreme rise in the silent killer of eviction, just in the last 5 years,  there was a massive rise in the building of “market rate housing” with a cursory amount of so-called “affordable housing,” which was never intended for us, the very low-income/no-income poverty skolaz as we call ourselves at POOR Magazine.

Ever since the RAD program caused the selling of public housing projects mortgages on the commodities market, launched by Obama cabinet member Julian Castro, we’ve seen an ongoing process of displacement for “renovation,” reduction in units, and straight-up destruction of truly poor people housing all across the US. At the same time, there has been an extreme rise under State Sen. Scott Weiner of SB35-type bills, which give permits to what I affectionately call “devil-opers” aka corporate developers, to pursue the unbridled building of more and more new buildings (with little or no height restrictions) as long as they gave some tiny amount to affordable units.

This Housing Horror Story all resulted in the intentionally disconnected and un-linked homeless “counts” from San Francisco and Alameda county, which have been pouring in with numbers like 46 percent rise in Oakland alone, leaving people collectively shaking their heads.

Sadly, Princess Beverly was literally the 46th elder in a long line of elders, families with young children, and disabled adults who I have been speaking with those who are facing some kind of abuse, uninhabitable conditions in their low-income, Section 8 or market rate housing units, or straight up illegal/unlawful evictions just in the last two months.

“I was poisoned in one home due to a broken sewer pipe leaking into the basement only to move to another apartment filled with mold, my family ended up in the hospital behind all of this. We are so tired,” said Vivi-T, formerly houseless, long-time POOR Magazine reporter, poverty skola, poet, and advocate. In Viv’s case she was paying inflated, so-called “market rate” rents for each of these life-threatening homes which caused her minor children and her to end up in the hospital with breathing problems and ultimately homeless.

“After less than a year after evicting me they threw a coat of paint on the building and put it on the market for sale,” said Aunti Frances. “This was after they said they were ‘getting out of the rental property market’ and giving their daughter a fresh start to own her own home.”Auti Fances is a poverty skola with POOR magazine, co-founder of Homefulness and founder of the Self-Help Hunger Program. She was discussing her year-long battle to save her long-time home, only to lose it to the Ellis Act, which has caused the eviction of so many of the elders we and other advocates like housing Rights Committee and Causa Justa/Just Cause have fought for over the last several years.

“My family and I and this whole building almost burned to death and the landlords said I complain too much,” said Sharena Diamond Thomas, a low-income mother of four, long-time Oakland resident and founder of Peoples Community Medics as she re-counted her horrible struggle to stay in her Section 8 housing even when the landlords refused to fix the habitability issues at the buildings peril. She received a notice to move, after Section 8 refused to approve the buildings housing voucher,  even though her family underwent so much stress and trauma.

All of these aunties, mamas, and grandmamas have been made homeless or threatened with homelessness in the last year, due to the illegal or just plain unethical moves of what I call, scamlords ( sometimes referred to as slumlords).

But the reality is for every elder or family we hear about who musters up the strength to fight back, there are literally hundreds we don’t hear about who like my mama used to say walk softly on Mama Earth and just pick up and move into the card-board motels (homelessness) — families like me and my mama who before we became conscious would just take our hefty bags and sleep in our car or sleep outside if we had no car, even when there was no just cause to many of the evictions we survived.

This all resulted in me having to drop out of school in the 6th grade and permanently entering the underground economies that kept us alive. For our family, like so many others, eviction was trauma and violence and its rooted in the ongoing buying and selling of mama earth as a profit making strategy.

In capitalism (or krapitalism as I call it) this violent business known as “income property” too often involves rent raising, illegal evictions, and uninhabitable substandard housing, house-flipping, house selling and land hoarding – and it means thousands more people are homeless.

The insane and rising greed inherent in making more and more money off of the housing and unhousing of people is causing the insane rise in evictions, displacement and ultimately extreme gentrification and homelessness. This business model is no longer (if it ever was) a humane business.

It is why us youth and family poverty skolaz at POOR Magazine released the Hoarded Mama Earth report with a direct ask to un-sell Mama Earth so we could build/manifest more Homefulness projects ( a homeless peoples self-determined movement to liberate mama earth and house homeless families happening right now in East Oakland with multi-nationed/First Nations guidance and permission and homeless peoples leadership.

But we are also seeking a pro-bono or civil rights law firm to help us re-file these criminal charges against these scam lords.

No matter how you try to wash it or dress it up, eviction is still elder and child abuse — which causes massive homelessness.

To reach tiny go to LisaTinyGrayGarcia.com or @povertyskola on Twitter