EBC Calls for Oakland to Reimagine Justice for People Impacted by Homelessness


January 21, 2020

Press Contacts:

Terence Long, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, terence@ellabakercenter.org, 510-936-0344

Ashley Chambers, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, ashley@ellabakercenter.org, 510-417-6071

Ella Baker Center Calls for Oakland to Reimagine Justice for People Impacted by Homelessness

Oakland, CA–In response to the growing homelessness crisis in California, Governor Newsom’s 2020-21 budget proposal dedicates resources to address this crisis and provide services to meet the needs of people living without adequate shelter. In Oakland, the lack of affordable housing and scarce resources for the unhoused has resulted in the systematic re-traumatization, over-policing and ‘othering’ of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

In his new book, We Keep Us Safe, Ella Baker Center Executive Director Zach Norris shares the story of Anita de Asis, a champion for the unhoused community who herself faces housing insecurity in Oakland. As a founder of The Housing & Dignity Village, Anita reclaimed an abandoned lot and turned it into a sober encampment for women and children where they could sleep, eat and feel safe.

Like Moms 4 Housing, the Housing and Dignity Village exemplified the community coming together to solve our own problems and was met with a hyper-militarized response. Addressing the over-policing of Oakland’s unhoused, the Ella Baker Center has advocated for an end to the city’s unconstitutional ordinances and loitering policies that are enforced to criminalize people for living on the street.

“It is encouraging to have Governor Newsom stress a new focus on providing the necessary resources to address homelessness across the state. With this, Oakland must shift the focus away from criminalizing people who are surviving under extreme circumstances, and instead invest in solutions to provide housing, healthcare, transportation, as well as financial services to the unsheltered,” said Zach Norris.

“The homelessness crisis is not just a human rights issue, it is also a civil rights issue. African Americans make up 70 percent of the unsheltered community in Oakland despite being just 26 percent of the city population,” said Angelo Sandoval, Senior Organizer and Legal Advocate with the Ella Baker Center. “This is a problem, especially when activists like Moms 4 Housing are met with unnecessary police force and arrested for simply trying to provide a home for themselves and their families.”

In addition to calling on the City of Oakland to repeal laws criminalizing the unhoused, members of the Ella Baker Center are also calling on the Alameda County Supervisors to hold Sheriff Ahern and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office accountable for the militarized response against the Moms 4 Housing women and children.