Stand With the Vulnerable, Resist this Policy!
Oakland’s Encampment Management Policy is Anti-People, Pro-Poverty
In December 2019, The Oakland City Council adopted the Permanent Access to Housing (PATH) framework and recently passed to move forward with an Encampment Management Policy. Though this policy is framed as something “new” and still in the drafting process, the reality is that this is just a continuation of the City of Oakland’s policy to criminalize and displace the poor working class residents of the City. The policy as it is being put forward is merely a codification of what has been happening to people for decades. What is outlined in the policy provides no clear solutions, but is rather a formalized piece of paperwork simply stating how they are currently evicting homeless people without a pathway to house them. This is a clear indicator that the local government, much like every other government across the nation does not represent the interests of working people.
Despite their claim that this new policy is aimed at “protecting vulnerable tenants”, “stabilizing those most at risk of becoming homeless” and to develop housing to serve the needs of people experiencing homelessness, it clearly states within the document that this new policy does nothing to address these issues! In reality, the primary focus of this so called strategy is “to shelter and rehouse households and improve health and safety on the street”. Anyone who has a clear understanding of the present system knows that the City’s attempts to house people in either it’s shelter system or it’s various “programs” such as the “Safe RV Lots” or the “Community Cabin Program” only puts extreme restrictions on homeless folks attempting to get back on their feet and are more often used as a weapon to further criminalize people and strip them of what little they have than they are used to provide people with a clear pathway to permanent housing. Even worse, the talk of “improving health and safety on the street” is a dog whistle for their true intentions for a policy like this: force working people to live in abhorrent conditions until they are deemend “unsafe” by local authorities which then leads to further displacement and criminalization by said authorities. Overall, their plan is to ramp up the amount of sweeps to the point where the vast majority of people will be forced into smaller and smaller areas until they eventually attempt to displace as many people as they can from Oakland.
The city government claims to have specific “Equity Considerations” in their new policy, in reality much of the language and “tool” they use to consider equity are merely a cooptation of different liberal organizations language that they use around this issue. They blatantly state that they prioritize the needs of property owners and businesses over the needs of people experiencing homelessness which should come to no surprise. But it begs the question, how does one “consider” equity in a society founded on genocide, slavery and the exploitation of the masses of people? Even if one were to take this consideration seriously, it is not merely enough to just consider this question, but to understand if one is to truly act to create equity in a society that is not just built on inequality, but oppression and exploitation, one would have to do away with our entire white supremacist capitalist system in order to even begin to achieve this concept of equity that is being considered. The reality is that the vast majority of people on the streets of Oakland live in the area they grew up in or where they were most recently evicted from their homes at. The City seems to have no issue with creating more space on public land for businesses but yet is constantly stumped with how to do the same for people trying to find a space to live.
The government has no issue coordinating between departments when it comes to finding ways to further displace and criminalize working people. However, providing safe and permanent housing to the homeless is not on the table for government officials because it is not in their interest to do so. Encampments are not seen as places where people are trying their best to live a desperate existence, they’re presented vectors of blight and crime that adversely impact the progress of gentrification.
Even though they claim they will provide hygiene services to different homeless encampments, this is something they have systematically continued to neglect and intentionally avoid in order for an encampment to be designated as in need of an escalated intervention. The city does not properly maintain handwashing stations, porta potties, or trash. This in turn creates the justification for them to displace people. By their own admission these “Minimum Health and Safety Standards” have been in place since 2018, yet even with a global pandemic and a $33 million budget for “homeless resources” the provision of sanitation services is still miniscule and what services are provided are consistently not maintained. It is safe to assume this kind of “intervention” is functionally not in the scope of this policy.
We could go into greater detail on with the various contradictions that exist within this new policy, but it would take much more time than it is worth. The reality is that this policy is intended to do exactly what the City of Oakland has been attempting to do for years now: permanently evict and criminalize working people in order to clear the way for corporations, real estate interests and other business interests.
The United Front Against Displacement urges any organizations genuinely concerned with working with and defending homeless people not to go along with the city’s plan to enlist them in “co-governing” encampments. This is a bold-faced lie by the city to recruit NGOs, activist groups, charity groups etc. as city-sanctioned lackeys. They try to present this as though the groups in question would be given a bargaining chip in city interventions, but it’s obvious that such a position would necessitate some form of obligation to do PR for sweeps and evictions.
We also urge all those who are willing to accept the task of opposing this policy to join in the fight to prevent its passing. The effects of this policy will have a monumental impact on working people not just in Oakland, but throughout the Bay Area and it will undoubtedly subject people to even more oppressive tactics employed by the government, corporations, landlords and their lackies. Only by coming together in the struggle do we stand a chance at not only preventing oppressive policies like this from passing, but to work together to build a new world that is free of all oppression and exploitation.
For more info reach out to The United Front Against Displacement at: firstname.lastname@example.org