On Nov. 18, two unhoused mothers and their children began occupying a vacant property at 2928 Magnolia St. in West Oakland. Although the owner, Wedgewood LLC, would describe their actions as criminal, some Oakland housing rights activists and city officials have expressed support for the mothers.
The Oakland Community Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that “acquires and stewards land” has offered to negotiate an agreement to acquire the property. Oakland Council President Rebbeca Kaplan and Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas are urging the company to agree. Dominique Walker, 34, and Sameerah Karim, 41, who launched the Moms4Housing collective, attempted to purchase the property from Wedgewood LLC on December 3rd and the company responded with an eviction notice. They have since refused to negotiate any remedy besides them assisting the mothers and children in leaving the house.
“Nobody wants to evict these people, but when you steal someone’s home, you get evicted,” stated Sam Singer, a crisis representative for Wedgewood, when asked why the company declined negotiations.
Carrol Fife, Director of ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), spoke out against speculative-based business plans that have left as many as 78 percent of Alameda County’s homeless unsheltered when the nations average is closer to 35 percent. A majority of these unsheltered homeless live in tents but some also live in cars and abandoned buildings.
At a hearing on December 30th at the Hayward Hall of Justice, the mother’s attorneys, Leah Simon-Winsberg, Micah Clatterbaugh, and Dan Siegel, requested to introduce expert testimony which allegedly proves the current housing crisis is largely caused by companies, like Wedgewood, who purchase multiple properties in a community and leave them vacant for long periods of time. They requested that the court take into consideration the human right to housing and declared that the court had a standing to step in and provide equity. Judge Patrick McKinney said that he would consider the argument but noted that he was not convinced that the mothers ever had a “right of possession” without a lease or other agreement.
After the hearing, over 300 community member gathered at the occupied house, now coined “Mom’s House”, for a rally of support. At the rally, the mother’s thanked the crowd for supporting what they call activism for housing rights in Oakland. The mothers are still awaiting a ruling from Judge McKinney, though Walker stated that the 41 days of shelter still “feels like a win” to them.