The biggest local story in Oakland lately is the one about the homeless women who squatted in a house that didn’t belong to them, refused to leave when they were evicted by the rightful owner, were arrested, brought to jail, got bailed out, and, yesterday, returned to the same house, saying they’re determined to fight.
The women, all Black, insist that housing is a “right.” The house in question is owned by a Redondo Beach (Los Angeles County) corporation, Wedgewood, that buys “distressed residential real estate,” fixes it up, and flips it.
The women had been living in the house for months before the story burst into the headlines following Tuesday’s early-morning roust of them by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. The women had barricaded themselves inside; deputies had to ram the front door down. The before-dawn raid was planned for 5:45 a.m. because the womens’ supporters had stated they would show up to prevent the women from being evicted.
The six women who had taken up residence in the dwelling called themselves Moms4Housing. The essence of their position is that they have “a right to housing.” Wedgewood, in turn, replied that the property they seized did not belong to them, and thus the women were illegally occupying it. A local judge agreed, which set the Sheriff’s Department into motion. At the time of my writing these words (Thursday morning), the women are said to be considering their next move. They’ve appealed to Gov. Gavin Newsom to help them. But their Twitter feed hasn’t been updated since Tuesday.
The case has garnered international attention, with everyone from CNN and the New York Times to the British Guardian taking notice. It has all the elements of a real potboiler: Race. The housing crisis. Cops and angry crowds. The potential for violence. The fact that it’s in Oakland, where Oscar Grant was killed a few years ago, helps drive its newsworthiness.
local nextdoor.com social media site has become a hotbed of commentary. By my
reading, most people agree with Wedgewood that the women illegally occupied a
house that wasn’t theirs, and that they have no legal right to “housing” and
must leave. An important part of this story is that Wedgewood offered to pay
the women money to resettle, but they refused, determined to remain in the
house that isn’t theirs.
people on the nextdoor string feel that moral issues outweigh legal ones. Sure,
they agree, the women don’t own the house, so technically, they’re breaking the
law. But, they continue, the women do have a “moral right” to housing. And the
fact that Wedgewood isn’t a person, but a corporation that flips houses,
doesn’t exactly make the company sympathetic. Flipping houses, which happens
all the time, isn’t the main reason for California’s homeless crisis, but it
probably does contribute to the high cost of housing, and to the gentrification
of impoverished neighborhoods like West Oakland, where the brouhaha is
happening. West Oakland has historically been a Black neighborhood, but gentrification
is bringing in people of all races and nationalities, who can afford to buy
homes there, and there’s no question that people are being displaced.
own feeling is mixed. Of course I’m sympathetic to the mothers, as I am towards
all homeless people, especially now that the weather in California has turned
cold and wet. I’d hate to be out there on the streets.
the same time, it’s very hard for me to justify the moms’ actions in squatting
in a privately-owned home that doesn’t belong to them. They do have other
options: Oakland is currently using Tuff Sheds for some homeless people; there
is shelter space (admittedly limited); private organizations like Catholic
Charities have offered to help; and at least some of the homeless moms (all of
whom are said to have jobs) must have family or friends, with whom they could
couch-surf until they’re back on their…
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