We sent the following letter to the City of Oakland on January 12, 2019.
To Mayor Schaaf and City of Oakland staff,
We write in regards to Oakland’s policies on unhoused residents. As is stated in our name, we support an East Bay for everyone, including low- and very-low-income people who are most severely threatened by our housing crisis. To that end, we call on the City of Oakland to follow a cohesive, non-punitive policy in collaboration with unhoused residents, while working towards an abundant supply of safe housing for people at all income levels.
We oppose punitive policies such as enforcement of car sleeping bans and sweeps of encampments. Interventions in informal settlements of tents, vehicles or temporary structures should be aimed at offering shelter or permanent housing, connecting residents with social and health services, and ensuring sanitation and safety. When encampments are closed because of urgent health and safety concerns, alternative shelter must be offered, individuals’ agency and property should be respected, and the city should provide shelter that accommodates loved ones, possessions, and pets.
We applaud City of Oakland programs that aggressively and meaningfully increase housing security such as:
- Authorizing city funds to build new affordable housing in Fruitvale, Coliseum, East Oakland , West Oakland and along San Pablo
- Allocating Measure KK funds to renovate existing affordable housing
- Oakland’s new Section 8 landlord incentive program
- The Keep Oakland Housed program – providing concrete financial and legal tools to keep people in permanent housing
- An increase in the number of year round shelter beds
We also recognize the Community Cabins program, which has created a safer location for those sleeping outside and connection to housing services. In providing these emergency structures, we believe Oakland must not compel residents to move out of encampments into these structures, explicitly or implicitly. More broadly, Oakland should engage unhoused people in deciding policies that impact them, for example, making sure task forces that discuss homeless issues include unhoused participants.
Ultimately, our city should pursue policies that emphasize aggressively building and funding subsidized and mixed-income housing in every neighborhood in Oakland, including alternative models such as land-trusts, so low- and very-low-income people can access permanent homes. In the meantime, we must work to engage and not punish the people most harmed by our housing crisis.