“We have nowhere to go. We are asking you, begging you to stop these evictions.”
John Bowman Janosko, one of the houseless poverty skola resident leaders of Wood Street Commons, stood alongside LaMonte, LeaJay, Tamara and advocates/supporters Xochitl, Delphine, Jas and more truth warrior residents, pleading to an aide to Assemblymember Mia Bonta to actually listen and do something to stop the violent displacement of already displaced people at Wood Street Commons and Cob on Wood, one of the largest communities of houseless residents in the Bay Area.
(I refuse to call it “an encampment” as this is more otherising language. It’s a community, a neighborhood, a village of poor people who support and care for each other like all of us poor folks do.)
On Oct 1, Wood Street residents traveled up by bike from Oakland (Lisjan land) to Nisenan/Maidu territory, aka the State Capital in Sacramento, to visit with legislators (I call them call LIEgislators) to raise funds for the Wood Street community, demand an end to the evictions of Wood Street residents and other unhoused Oaklanders,and unhoused warriors from the Sacramento Homeless Union, and call on state officials to support the civil and human rights of unhoused people with access to permanent housing, water, electricity, trash removal, and other basic resources that allow them to live with dignity, safety and stability.
“Throughout this past week and over the past month, the California Highway Patrol and California Department of Transportation have been permanently evicting Wood Street encampment residents en masse at the request of Governor Gavin Newsom, destroying their tiny homes, vehicles and the community they have created together there over the past decade,” said formerly unhoused Oakland-based advocate Delphine Brody, who biked with Wood Street resident organizers and advocates to Sacramento.
“All of these evictions cost so much money, millions of dollars in personnel,” LaMonte, one of the resident leaders said. “Why not give it to us to create our own solutions?”
Our group of approximately 20 people in total walking from one office to another explained the impossible situation of evictions of hundreds of residents from where they have been living for the last several years. The aides repeated half-heartedly multiple times, “well, there isn’t much we can do,”
It hurt my heart to hear John use the B word (Beg), yet that’s where this krapitalist system has put us poor folk. Begging to not be displaced, removed, evicted, terrorized. Like Iris Canadá, Elaine Turner, Shannon Marie Bigley, Desiree Quintero, me and my mama and all of our POOR Magazine family, when we were on the street and so many more Houseless and barely housed elders and families evicted, swept and killed by this violent settler lie of private property.
“We have built a thriving community there, with a free store for clothes, a save haven to rest if you are currently in crisis, food and supplies, this is what they are destroying, a community of homeless people helping ourselves,” John concluded.
On Sunday, October 2, Oakland and Sacramento unhoused organizers held a potluck and a press session at the reclaimed community space on a vacant city-owned lot at Arden Way and Colfax Streets in Sacramento. The importance of the location they chose was to highlight the way the City of Sacramento, which would rather sweep people than house people, had spent $617,000 to fence and pave a lot designated for safe parking for houseless people.
Instead, the city moved approximately 150 unhoused residents in circles around the lot and ultimately, last April, forced them off the lot to fence it off and lock people out. The city of Sacramento spent millions of dollars to force people back onto the streets.
“We had beautiful tiny homes built out here which were our homes until they put a notice on it and told us we had to move because they were going to demolish it,” said Kelly, one of many residents of tiny homes and RVs who were forced to leave the Wood street community.
The city has done nothing really for the residents, except enable more violent sweeps and removal. The city coughed up a total of 40 beds and even they weren’t easily attainable. With so much red tape most people give up in the process or lose more of their belongings or vehicles in the process of supposedly “getting help,” as Wood street resident and RoofLESS radio reporter Tony reported at the Revolutionary Journalism class at POOR Magazine.
Thanks to the fierce moves of SisStar warrior Carroll Fife, who also helped cut through the endless red tape in Oakland so Homefulness could finally open last month, a proposal was put forward for the Wood Street residents relocation to the Oakland Army Base:
RESOLUTION DIRECTING THE CITY ADMINISTRATOR TO ALLOW ACCESS TO THE UNDESIGNATED EIGHT ACRES ON THE NORTH GATEWAY PARCEL LOCATED AT THE FORMER OAKLAND ARMY BASE TO SERVE UP TO 300 INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE BEEN DISPLACED DUE TO THE WOOD STREET ENCAMPMENT CLOSURE, AND DIRECTING THE CITY ADMINISTRATOR, IN COLLABORATION WITH STATE AND ALAMEDA COUNTY LEADERS, TO DEVELOP A PLAN TO STAND UP A MORE STABLE HOUSING INTERVENTION WITH SUPPORTIVE SERVICES ON EIGHT ACRES OF THE NORTH GATEWAY PARCEL TO SERVE UNHOUSED COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT DISTRICT 3, WITH PRIORITY TO RESIDENTS FROM THE WOOD STREET AND MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAY ENCAMPMENTS
The city ended up watering this down to a mostly useless proposal that would not benefit the residents who are in immediate danger of being scattered to the wind. Because, as my mama Dee used to say, they wouldn’t get the danger of homelessness, they ain’t never missed a meal, much less a roof.
“All the places people have been scattered to are also being swept, removed and threatened, where are we supposed to go?” Wood street resident Jas Colibri said to the aide.
“While climate terrorism is raging across MamaEarth, it is time to actually try something different, like working with 1st Nations and houseless warriors like Sogorea Te Land Trust, Homefulness and Wood Street to unSell and unSettle land, instead of more buying and selling, re-devil-oping and stealing,” I told the aide.” Can you tell Assemblymember Bonta that?
“When you actually listen to poor and houseless people you find out we have our own solutions, when you support our ideas, we solve our own problems.”
On world homeless day and Indigenous Peoples Day As a result of inaction on the part of the city and the state the Oakland residents displaced from the Wood Street encampment have taken the initiative and moved to a vacant lot in West Oakland at 34th St. and Mandela.
Stay tuned for an important public event with Wood Street Commons, Cob on Wood and Homefulness on November 15th at 10am. To support the Wood street relatives follow them on Instagram @woodstreetcommons or @cobonWood .To read the Wood Street residents’ own words written by them at POOR Magazine’s revolutionary journalism class click here Reach tiny on twitter or IG @povertyskola or at her website at lisatinygraygarcia.com