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Thursday, February 22, 2024

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HousingHomelessnessTiny homes with giant restrictions are not a solution to homelessness

Tiny homes with giant restrictions are not a solution to homelessness

No visitors. No cooking. No community. That doesn't work for a lot of people.

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Tiny tombs, I mean tiny homes

Not a place to call our own 

Tiny tombs better describes the triggerr of those jail-like rooms 

The InsideNOTsafe is a public relations game by  politricksters to get us houseless peoples out the way From Huchiun to LA  

System Set up from the Get up so that we can

fall deeper into our wounds

 Inside our minds 

which are struggling in a broken state

All the time 

The anti-social workers say

No visitors, no locked doors, no cooking, no animals and no talking here—but never fear us houseless people aren’t actually real—these are low-key jails cuz us houseless humans aren’t supported to get well

Holding on by shards of pain

lost to deadly assumptions of what we could have been—we coulda made 

but never fear an anti social worker is here – 

we have a number—we can wait—we allegedly have all the time to waste—we are on 1,200 housing waitlists from the feds, the county and the state  

This poemCast from a povertyskola goes out to all my fellow povertyskolaz who know the struggle inside our minds – of the isolation and the wait-times, of the inability to get basics even if we stand in all of their lines 

Occupied Tongva (LA)—The death of  Anjileen “Green Eyes” Swan, who passed away last week in her tent, is a stunning example of the cruelty and failure of the Los Angeles housing system. Because she had been hospitalized, she lost her room and was sent back to the streets, gravely ill, with a pacemaker. She died within a week.

“Mayor Karen Bass’ InsideSafe Program and City Council Member Imelda Padilla’s Offices were well aware of her grave health condition,” said warriors from Aetna Street Solidarity. 

Anjileen “Green Eyes” Swan

Violent sweeps of our houseless bodies as though we are trash and vicious towing of our homes (aka cars/RV’s), which happens incessantly across occupied Turtle Island under mayoral administrations from London Breed (SF) to Jesse Arreguin (Berkeley) to Erik Adams (NYC) to Karen  Bass (LA) to Sheng Tao (Oakland), using money for “homeless services” to pay the exorbitant costs of sweeps, are not solutions.

Tiny home villages, navigation centers, scarce and temporary shelter beds and jail-transformed motel rooms, which in the Green Eyes case evict each person after three days out of their rooms even if they are in the hospital, and/or forced housing referrals/forced treatment like Newsom passed into law, are not solutions because they are not informed by the people impacted by them, aka us, the houseless people or as we call ourselves at POOR Magazine, “povertyskolaz.”

These “solutions” to homelessness created “about us without us”—that is, without the guidance, direction or leadership of us poor and houseless people—are not only bound to fail, but bound to harm, often leading to our death.

The tiny tombs villages such as the ones in Oakland and Bellingham and projects like LA’s InsideSafe, which I re-named InsideNOTsafe, are actually the opposite of safe or a village and in fact are dangerous for houseless people. 

These projects and solutions aren’t guided by spirit, love, healing, elders or poverty scholarship like Homefulness. Instead they are rooted in numbers, budgets and scarcity models without any regard for our mental or spiritual health but simply working on a quota and numbers system about “how many houseless people they can “serve” rather than listen to what we actually need. They breed calculated, institutional words and codes like “service resistant” and “non-compliant” which are code for those of us who can’t abide by carceral non-solutions like these. 

Occupied Nooksak (Bellingham, Washington)—“They told me I can’t cook, can’t have friends over, can’t stand outside my room, can’t smoke and can’t store my belongings, this is worse than jail,” Bobbi, an indigenous povertyskola from Pacific Northwest Turtle Island, explained the hell of trying to survive in a tiny home village that she was “lucky” enough to get a referral to move to when she was on the street, suffering increased criminalization and endless violent sweeps in the middle of a freezing winter.

Occupied Huchiun (West Oakland)—“Who are you?” the security guard asked us through three layers of chain-link fencing material separating Oakland’s “cabin community” that was the only referral given to about 50  of the hundreds of victims of the violent Wood Street Evictions earlier this year. “No visitors are allowed.”

Then he proceeded to re-lock up the third fence between us.

After some wrangling by the head anti-social worker in charge, the security guard reluctantly unlocked the gates. While a grueling process of ID checks and calls to supervisors ensued, I asked the member of Wood Street Commons who we had walked over there with what they thought of the Cabin Community.

“I don’t like it and probably won’t last here very long with the insane rules, but that’s all they are offering me and I have nowhere else to go,” the sisterwarrior, who asked to remain anonymous shook her head from side to side and fell quiet.

“The only reason this place is a little less evil is because of all the meetings we had with them and the ideas we homeless people gave them, which they sort of listened to,” said John Janosko, houseless founding member of Wood Street Commons about the tiny home cabins. “But they are still not welcoming or liveable for a lot of our folks.” 

The euphemistically named “cabins” installed by the City of Oakland enlist an admixture of fear, claustrophobia and impending incarceration for every resident, a dangerous situation that has since led to the cycle of homelessness continuing for the Wood Street Commons eviction refugees. 

These carceral communities specifically created for houseless residents are rife with violence, which makes sense as they are all rooted in historical hateful acts of legislative brutality, like the Ugly Laws, Pauper Laws, Settlement houses and Pauper prisons, sundown towns and Jim Crow, to name a few. Multiple ways that being poor, houseless or disabled in public, or the inability to afford food or rent, would be just cause for arrest or incarceration.

One terrifying example: Under previous Oakland mayor Libby Shaaf, we had the life-threatening insanity of the “tuff-shed,” a poison leaking, flammable particle board box that literally was dangerous to sit in, much-less sleep in, and the fact that these could even be created and taken seriously, is an example of the way that our bodies are seen when we are not paying ground rent in a capitalist system. These violent “solutions” created about us without us poor people, are flawed on purpose because our houseless bodies are not seen as human.  

“I am hiding out just so I can get my wallet and important belongings,” another sister, warrior, povertyskola resident leader with Wood Street Commons Freeway texted to me while she was getting evicted from the cabin she and her partner were placed in after the violent Wood Street Commons evictions. “They have no understanding or accommodations for people like me and my partner, we tried to be here, and now we are being evicted back to the street again.

Occupied Yelamu (SF)—”Luis Temaj would still be here but this society thinks its ok to sweep humans like we are trash, like my mama always says,” said Youth Skola Tiburcio Garcia. “They are sweeping people right now down the street while we are mourning Luis.”

Tiburcio spoke from a powerful ceremony POOR Magazine held last week for Luis Temaj, a humble loving houseless Mayan, brother, and friend, who was set on fire while sleeping on the streets of San Francisco on Oct 8th of 2021. To this day his family has received no justice. 

Occupied Huchiun (Berkeley)—“Your friend can’t come in.”

“This is my mama,”

“I don’t care if she is G-O-D herself, she’s not coming in, we have a no visitors in room policy. Period,”

In one of the many iterations of me and mama’s homelessness we “lived” in several, cockroach and bedbug infested, box-size Single Room Occupancy hotels, in other words, poor people housing. I place quotation marks around lived because I’m not sure if living itself can be achieved in the jail-like conditions of most of these SRO’s were “placed” in to get us off the street. 

If it wasn’t the insane litany of “rules” we had to live under, it was the ongoing policing we were subject to just being there. 

“Who is in there?” 

“My mama and me, like always.” 

“Well we need to come in to inspect.”

The knocks and accusations were once or twice a week, and eventually the management decided we weren’t a “good fit” because of my mamas trauma fueled tendency to collect too many things, which they call hoarding or cluttering and evicted us back to the street. This was just one of the many eviction wars we survived and one of the many murders of the soul that led us to dream/vision Homefulness.

Homefulness, unlike these other projects, is a homeless peoples, self-determined, rent-free, healing, forever housing solution to homelessness, created with spiritual guidance and permission from First Nations peoples of these occupied lands and which has been built and is thriving in Deep East Oakland which just welcomed in its 16th resident a houseless, single mama, on December 1st. 

We also are clear that any poor and houseless peoples-led land liberation movement must have spiritual guidance and permission of the First Nations relatives of that occupied land. Homefulness would not have happened without the spiritual guidance prayer and permission of the Ohlone/Lisjan leaders of this part of Turtle Island and rooted in LandBack and Black Land Return frameworks and actions. This is the work myself and land protector and Ohlone/Lisjan co-founder of Sogorea Te Land Trust, Corrina Gould, we call Decolonziing Homelessness.

Our funding sources are different as well, we povertyskolaz teach housed folks with race, class and formal education privilege about the concept of Radical Redistribution and ComeUnity reparations in a poor people-led skool we call PeopleSkool. This is a solidarity economy in action. Self-determination means you are liberating your mind, actions and consciousness away from harmful extractive capitalism.  

Other beautiful examples of solutions are Camp Resolution in Sacramento, a beautiful poor, houseless, disabled resident run space, Nicklesville, which is a poor and houseless revolutionaries-run tiny home village in Seattle; Camp Integrity, which is a newly launched safe camping site in Marin County; and Wood Street Commons before the City of Oakland dismantled, destroyed, and evicted everyone from it.

Occupied Tongva (LA)—“We lost one of our members, Mike Flo aka Michael Flores,” Carla, a warrior shero, povertyskola and co-founder of Aetna Street Solidarity, explained to me about the forced isolation of no visitor’s policy, and no community convening, demanded of houseless people placed in motel rooms in the InsideSafe project under so-called progressive mayor Bass. “These aren’t places for healing, we are losing folks, so many folks,” Carla continued. 

Inside Safe is a citywide, voluntary, proactive housing-led strategy to bring people inside from tents and encampments, and to prevent encampments from returning. It is one feature in a comprehensive strategy to confront the homelessness crisis. 

Quote from LA city Gov website. 

The sweeps are constant and violent. I can’t even stand in the places I used to hide  without police coming to get me, and then if I don’t take their referral I get arrested, they call me “service resistant,” said Johnny D, one of our RoofLess Radio reporters spoke to the subliminal, not so subliminal threats stated in the LA website description of InsideNOTsafe, specifically the line; prevent encampments from returning, which is code for the implementation of metal barricades blocking off entire streets to anyone and/or weirdly large planters like San Francisco has placed everywhere houseless communities used to reside, or spikes, or removal of benches, all making cities inaccessible to peoples with disabilities and elders, many of whom are also houseless, to sit, stand or live anywhere.  

All of us co-founders of Homefulness struggle with the multiple traumas from lives spent living outside, and lives spent living inside in a hurting capitalist system. We know the violence of incarceration, racism, ableism, eviction, addiction. And the violence of isolation and the struggles of recovery.  

We hold each other in accountability, and it’s hard. We are constantly having to convene our internal restorative justice circles we call family elders, elephant councils and our HEAALZ groups to work toward healing and repair with ourselves and each other. We teach multi-media workshops and support micro-business enterprises and the communities we are in with whatever we are able to give and distribute. But most of all we all know, equally importantly, that Homefulness doesnt just mean a room or a roof. It means interdependence, love and support. 

This povertyskola is currently working with fellow houseless povertyskola leaders and Sup. Dean Preston’s Office and Aetna Street Solidarity with support from students and comeUnity at the Luskin Center at UCLA to mamafest a Homefulness, in Tongva (LA)  and Yelamu (SF) as well as Revolutionary lawyers from Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC). Stay tuned for more info.  

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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