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A Call to Action: Fight to Help the Homeless Get Off the Streets and Into Housing Now

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We are in a critical, yet transformative time in human history right now. As a result of COVID-19, the very systems we depend on are being stretched to capacity. Some have failed altogether.

There is a silver lining. Inequities in health care, food, public education, housing, political and penal systems have made us rely on each other in ways many of us have not done in the past. These times are testing the weak points on our collective networks and challenging us to rise to the occasion of the day.

In a popular biblical story, God told one of his faithful followers, Joshua, that he and his people should migrate to Canaan as a place of refuge from the wilderness. The scouts who went to check out the city found that it was barricaded and no one could get in or out. Wealthy aristocrats and people with means had misused the land’s resources and built a great wall to protect themselves from have-nots.

Some of Joshua’s friends were scared of this migration and some didn’t believe they truly deserved to live in such a place. But God reminded Joshua that he would care for his people and gave him instructions on how to get in. He was told to bring spiritual teachers with noisemakers and march around the walls of the fortified city once every day for six days.

On the seventh day, when the noisemakers blew the whistle, actually ram’s horns, the people would know to turn up. That action would bring down the walls of Jericho.

Even before the coronavirus highlighted the weaknesses and oppressive inequity of capitalism, vulnerable people knew of high walls. The fortified walls of racism, classism, ageism, sexism and ableism, are all fortified by a spirit of greed and toxic independence that must end so we all can thrive.

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, must reimagine justice, insure tranquility, provide for the most marginalized, and promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity in reality and not rhetoric.

Therefore, on Saturday, April 11, the Oakland Black Housing Union along with faith leaders, allied communities and service providers will ride to call attention to the lack of urgency to get people OFF THE STREETS. The majority of Oakland’s homeless population are Black people, and on a good day, homelessness means a death sentence for many of them. An immediate migration is needed to get people into housing for the safety of all.

In a show of unity and love, we will practice social distancing in our vehicles and circle the walls of the hotels that have been commissioned to provide space to house the homeless during this pandemic. We will continue these actions until we see change. We are urging Governor Newsom, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and local elected officials to move with the urgency this moment calls for.

We will ride around these hotels, sounding off that our electeds must do more to flatten the curve of COVID-19. If they don’t do their jobs, we will.

Carroll Fife is director of Carroll Fife, Director Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE).

Rev. Jeremy J. McCants is an associate minister at the historic Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland.

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