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News + PoliticsOpinionReclaiming homes, from LA to Sacramento

Reclaiming homes, from LA to Sacramento

Solutions driven by the unhoused are constantly under attack.

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We reclaim abandoned homes so our babies can be safe. We reclaim abandoned land so our elders can be safe. We reclaim abandoned streets so all of us humans can be safe from the violence of sweeps, and clean-ups, isolation, hunger, and homelessness.

From Sacramento to El Sereno in Los Angeles, we poor people bring love and care and solutions and hope to Mama Earth and our houseless, disabled, mamas and grandmommas, daughters and sons through self-determined solutions like Camp Resolution, Nicklesville, Homefulness, Juanita Street, Wood Street Commons, Aetna Street, Reclaiming Our Homes, and Moms4Housing. 

But no matter how beautiful, successful, or simple our solutions are, the powers that be smash and destroy and evict our solutions with guns and paper and courts and laws and armed agents of the state.

“LA Housing authority is supposed to be housing us, instead they evicting us back into the streets”  said Martha Escudero, one of the Houseless mama leaders of Reclaiming Our Homes, a group of 13 houseless, housing insecure, low/no-income mamas, daughters and elders  who were struggling to survive on the streets of LA with their children and, inspired by Moms4Housing in Huchiun, decided to reclaim, take back, liberate and move into several abandoned homes owned and hoarded by Caltrans in their rapidly gentrifying Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno.

In Sacramento, “Camp Resolution is not about being homeless, it’s about community,” said Dennis, resident leader, at an action by camp leaders held last week to resist a threat of eviction by the City of Sacramento.

Camp Resolution is a beautiful community of houseless elders and youth who had struggled with violent sweeps and eviction and gentrification and seizure of all of their belongings throughout their lives of homelessness in so-called Sacramento (Occupied Nisenan/Maidu Territory).

Initially, Sacramento granted Camp Resolution use of an abandoned parking lot way out in the cuts to create their community, promising the residents they could stay there until the city was able to get them habitable safe long-term housing  Now several months and several stabilized humans later, the city is reneging on their offer.

“I’ve been homeless for 13 years, I’ve been swept, had everything taken from me, but I am Camp Resolution,” said by one of the residents facing homelessness again while attorneys for the Sacramento Homeless Union filed suit and served the City of Sacramento charging breach of contract, and violation of the covenant for good faith and fair dealing. 

“Camp Resolution is amazing, the city should be studying it and trying to figure out how to support it not destroy it,” said one of the advocates at the press conference in front of City Hall 

With the city still refusing to rescind the Notice of Lease Termination and the clock ticking towards June 1, 2024—the date announced by the City to close the Camp—the next step for the union will be filing an emergency motion for a Temporary Restraining Order.

“Homelessness almost killed me and my daughters, we were so depressed and even suicidal,” continued Martha. My mind shuddered at the memories of me and mama going thru the same eviction and then homelessness violence in LA, Oakland, Frisco and Berkeley throughout my childhood, and how we almost didn’t make it .

The loss of a home for everyone is violence but for mamas and children, it truly is unbearable. For elders, it often means death.

In 2014 POOR Magazine was able to prove  that eviction in fact is violence, and even more specifically, it’s elder abuse. And sadly, in the cases of the elders who contributed to the report, it led to their increased illness or in many cases, death. Elaine Turner, Ron Likkers, Iris Canada, are just some of the elders we lost to the violent act of eviction. Elders like many of the residents of Camp Resolution and Reclaiming Our Homes.

Additionally, we include child abuse because every mother or father with children documented how evictions and subsequent housing insecurity or homelessness caused them and their children extreme duress, sometimes leading to suicidality. In me and mama’s case, depression and terror were our constant reality. Whenever we were able to find a stable home and build back some semblance of normalcy and mental health, our lives were devastated again by eviction due to multiple factors, having to do with poverty. 

“We need to stay in in our community, our survival is based on the services and networks we rely on here,” Martha said. She went on to explain her indigenous, disabled child is enrolled in a healing alternative school that is not something she can just find anywhere.

Our networks are literally a lifeline. This is rarely if ever considered by the gentrifiers casually paying double or triple the amount of rent that a place is even worth.

Gerry Ambrose, just one of the many longtime elder members of POOR Magazine, who I say was killed by gentrification had lived in her San Francisco home for 40 years, had three children and six grandchildren, and in 2001 was gentrified out of San Francisco into a trailer in Sacramento. Sacramento never gave her or her family any support to survive and Gerry was never able to stabilize; her disabled son was never able to receive services and her other adult sons, never able to get living wage employment. Tragically all of the stress, isolation and depression literally killed her. 

Conversely, us poor folks who visioned Homefulness work intentionally to de-gentrify neighborhoods. Like Reclaiming Our Homes, we only decided on the site of the first Homefulness based on the fact that nobody was living on those small parts of Mama Earth, and in the case of Homefulness2, it needed much healing rematratation work to even clean the land and make it liveable. 

“We are working with a land trust who offered to buy the homes, but CalTrans refused,” Martha concluded. Caltrans, the largest entity in the state that routinely sweeps houseless humans like we are trash, has no interest in actually housing anyone who needs the homes. Instead they are just perpetrating more violence of removal on these mamas and elders. 

What Camp Resolution, Aetna Street, Wood Street Commons, Juanita street, Nicklesville, the Reclaimers and Homefulness created is the intangible of love, stability, community support and community care. These communities of rent-free-forever housing and/or camping aren’t the same as a “cabin” or an SRO or an apartment. They aren’t another “campaign” or “project” these are life-lines built for us/by us/ informed by what we at POOR Magazine call Poverty Scholarship, poor peoples’ knowledge we have gained through experience of struggle, and the basic notion of love itself,  this is how humans hold each other into life. This is the love we need to not just survive, but thrive. 

If you are in the occupied Tovaangar area, (LA) Please support these mamas right to housing and pack the Stanley Mosk courthouse dept 93 at 111 North Hill street, LA, starting this week. If you are anywhere else follow them on IG @reclaimingourhomes . Watch the video on Poor NewsNetwork here 

If you are in Northern California please support Camp Resolution’s efforts to stay safe and in their campground  by following Sacramanto Homeless Union on X, Fb or IG 

To support the mamafesting of Homefulness 2, 3, 4, & 5 (so-called Oakland, Frisco, LA and Seattle)  consider registering for the next seminar of PeopleSkool (on zoom in BlackAugust) by going to www.poormagazine.org/education 

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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