Safety begins with stable and healthy homes, neighborhoods and communities. Racial inequality, poverty and housing segregation are on the rise in Oakland, coinciding with a surge in encampments of unsheltered people across the city, the majority of whom are African American. Since 2018, the unsheltered population in Alameda County has increased by 26 percent.


That is why we advocate for change and community-led solutions for unsheltered Oaklanders. The Heal Not Harm campaign was started with the Ella Baker Center Member Congress in 2017 to end the criminalization of homelessness. We see the ultimate solution to homelessness as a Housing First model providing wraparound services and adequate shelter for Oaklanders in need.

The Heal Not Harm campaign advocated alongside directly impacted people to end 10 anti-poverty ordinances historically used to harm and further displace unsheltered Oaklanders. In December 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Martin vs. Boise, finding it cruel and unusual punishment and unconstitutional when people are criminalized for being in public places (sitting, standing, eating, sleeping, etc.) when they have no adequate shelter to return to.

Ally Organizations:

The Village

Love & Justice in the Streets

The Village in Oakland

Homeless Advocacy Working Group (HAWG)


In collaboration with our close coalition partners, we centered the lived experiences of directly impacted families of color and moved Oakland officials on our demands for affordable housing, and supportive services for unsheltered communities. We surveyed encampments and directly impacted people about their experiences with law enforcement, and organized a Strategy Retreat with unsheltered Oaklanders. Building relationships with our coalition partners and the unsheltered community allowed us to change the narrative and create strategy based on healing, cultural humility, and community.


In February 2020, we issued a cease and desist letter to the City of Oakland demanding the end of encampment evictions, and towing and impounding cars used as primary residences. We demanded the repeal of all 10 anti-poverty ordinances. Finally, we called for access to port-o-potties, hand wash stations, and trash pick up at all encampments. 

Now, as a direct result of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued recommendations that reflected many of the demands we have called for. The Oakland City Council subsequently voted to approve:

  • A Moratorium on Sweeps (Encampment Evictions)
  • A Moratorium on Towing and Impounding vehicles used as primary residences 
  • Additional Port-o-Potties and Hand Washing Station 
  • As well as expanded Trash Pick Up
  • A suspension of enforcement of anti homeless ordinances for the duration of the pandemic.

For more information, please contact Ella Baker Center Senior Organizer and Advocate, Angelo Sandoval: Follow us on social media for campaign updates.