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Shelter Options Remain Unclear as City Passes New Homeless Policy



Residents of a homeless community 37MLK, Rome (center) and Chrise (right), stand outside of Rome's tiny home which community volunteers built. The community exists in a high sensitivity area, so could be under threat due to the passage of the new Encampment Management Policy. Photo by Zack Haber.

Late on Oct. 20, Oakland City Council unanimously passed an Encampment Management Policy that codifies where people experiencing homelessness are and are not allowed to live, but firm plans for what shelter options people will be offered if cleared from a prohibited area have not been set.

The policy defines any space within 50 feet of a residence, business, protected waterway, public park, or sports court, and within 100 feet of a school as a “high sensitivity area” and further states that “encampments located within a high sensitivity area that are not approved by City Council will be subject to closure intervention.”

“This means they’re going to evict encampments across the entire city,” said Talya Husbands-Hankin of the Oakland homeless rights advocacy group Love and Justice in The Streets. Calling the policy “cruel and racist,” Husbands-Hankin echoed concerns of public speakers at the Oct. 20 City Council meeting, where over 175 speakers spoke, the vast majority of whom spoke critically of the EMP.

Well over 100 other people took their concerns to the streets during the meeting, as protestors, many of whom were associated with The United Front Against Displacement, House The Bay, and TANC Bay Area, hosted anti-EMP noise demonstrations outside of City Hall and Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Dan Kalb homes.

Those critical of the EMP said that the policy leaves homeless people with no safe place to go as high sensitive areas encompass most of the city. But Daryel Dunston, Oakland’s Homelessness Administrator who presented the policy to City Council, said that the policy “leads with services, compassion and empathy,” and that services and offers of alternative shelter would be given before a clearance. He repeatedly claimed that the policy does not seek to criminalize homelessness and that no one would be arrested just for sleeping outside.

At the meeting, Dunston referred to a recent operation at Pine and 11th streets in West Oakland as an example of the City’s process of providing alternative shelter before clearing an encampment. But Needa Bee, of The Village, a homeless advocacy group, said an elderly homeless Black resident got displaced during this operation. (Since The Post was unable to communicate with him, we are using a pseudonym for him here.)

“They threw away [Michael Simpson’s] belongings and then offered him a few nights in The Travel Inn,” said Bee.

According to a contract between Simpson and Operation Dignity, a non-profit that the City of Oakland works with that helps to connect homeless people with shelter services, Simpson was offered four days of hotel shelter but then would have to pay to remain in the room. It shows he was also offered space in the City’s Community Cabins program, but Bee said he refused due to negative experiences living in them in the past.

Sara Bedford, of the City of Oakland’s Human Services, disputed Bee’s claim in an e-mail sent on Oct. 26.

“We cannot share any specific information but can confirm the individual is no longer unsheltered,” she wrote.

City programs to shelter homeless people in Oakland are limited. Homeless shelters are usually full and some do not offer extended stays. Oakland Community Housing Services Manager Lara Tannenbaum said in an e-mail that the city has 218 community cabin beds, 108 safe RV spaces, and 128 trailer beds. Oakland’s point-in-time count claims there are 4,000 homeless people in Oakland and the Homeless Advocacy Working Group’s count claims around 10,000 people.

In a newsletter sent on Oct. 23 where he referred to the City Administration who would enforce the EMP, Councilmember Kalb wrote, “They have assured us that no encampment would be fully closed, or individuals asked to move without multiple offers of services and shelter, due process and proper noticing.”

There is not yet an agreed-upon definition between the City Administration and the Council defining what shelter would be offered. In her own newsletter, also sent on Oct. 23, City Council President Rebecca Kaplan wrote, “there is a need to ensure a shared understanding of what is required in terms of the provision of adequate shelter.” Then she wrote that the issue would be addressed in a meeting on Dec. 1.

“What really disturbs me and makes me upset is that Oakland, unlike San Francisco, has the amazing resource of 50 plus acres of vacant public land,” said Margaretta Lin, executive director of Just Cities, a non-profit that works towards racial justice, housing for all, and police transformation in Oakland.

She was critical of the EMP as there currently are no long-term spaces that have been made available for most of Oakland’s homeless people to live in if they are cleared from their current locations.

Lin wants to use the vacant land for mobile homes, trailers and tiny homes that would provide shelter for three to five years, claiming that if this were a natural disaster, like an earthquake that affected middle- to high-income residents, public land would already be used for such purposes.

She also pointed to recent funds from taxes like Measures W and Q, that could be used to arrange and construct such shelters.

Just Cities has arranged an 11-page document listing vacant public lands and Lin said they briefed Mayor Libby Schaaf about their plan two years ago.

“Her response was this is a great plan and we’re doing it,” said Lin. “But I don’t think they’re really doing it.”

Neither Schaaf or her media team have responded to questions about whether or how she is currently implementing the Just Cities plan.

In the meantime, some Oakland residents are building tiny homes of their own. 37MLK, a community of long-term homeless residents in the Bay Area who live on private land that has long been left vacant, have started moving into tiny homes that are built and funded by volunteer community members.

While several units are already built and lived in, volunteers are ramping up efforts and plan to have seven units built by Nov. 7. The 8-by-8 foot and 8-by-10 foot units have locking doors and solar lights. By the winter, they hope to install insulation. They are funding the project through Instagram.

“I think that the city should let us have unused property or land that’s just going to waste,” said Rome, a 53-year-old Bay Area native who has been homeless for nine years, and currently lives in a tiny home at 37MLK. The community sits in a high sensitivity area.

Rome talked of how having a roof over her head has made it possible for her to reduce the risk of infection, which may allow her to get a long-needed hip replacement surgery if she can be assured of stability. A bad hip leaves her in constant pain that fluctuates in intensity and limits her ability to move.

Stefani Echeverría-Fenn, who helped found the 37MLK community and has lived in Oakland since 2010, thinks what is happening at 37MLK could happen on a much larger and more effective scale if the city made use of public lands and funding.

“I think all of us are a set of broke millennials with no real money ourselves and no construction skills until we were trained,” she said. “Imagine what we could do with real resources on public land.”


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Multi-Cultural Chambers of Commerce, Wells Fargo Bank, Coach Oakland Business Owners on Getting Access to Capital

Representatives from the following Chambers were in attendance: Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce.



The Multi-Cultural Chamber of Commerce received a check for $100,000 from Wells Fargo. Present were (left to right): Rick Da Silva Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Jessica Chen, Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Chuck Baker, Wells Fargo; Cathy Adams, Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce; Ken Maxey, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; Erica Trejo, Wells Fargo; Oakland Councilmember Loren Taylor and Joe Partida, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Auintard Henderson.
The Multi-Cultural Chamber of Commerce received a check for $100,000 from Wells Fargo. Present were (left to right): Rick Da Silva Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Jessica Chen, Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Chuck Baker, Wells Fargo; Cathy Adams, Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce; Ken Maxey, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; Erica Trejo, Wells Fargo; Oakland Councilmember Loren Taylor and Joe Partida, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Auintard Henderson.

By Post Staff

The Multi-Cultural Chambers of Commerce collaborated with Wells Fargo bank to give business owners information and access to capital at an event was held Nov.18 at Higher Ground Community Center, 2010 Mandela Parkway, Oakland, California.

Banking professionals and representatives from Community Development Financial Institutions shared their knowledge en masse in the morning, then, following lunchbreak speakers, were available for one-on-one networking.

“We are excited to have hosted an informative workshop with representatives from Working Solutions and KIVA,” said Cathy Adams, president of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce. “Our businesses have suffered in so many ways during this pandemic and we need to take advantage of each opportunity to access capital for our businesses to increase revenue sales.

“I am equally proud to have Wells Fargo as a partner with the Multi-Cultural Chambers of Commerce to unite our efforts to support our businesses in Oakland. The grant in the amount of $100,000 will assist each Chamber to do similar workshops starting January 2022,” Adams said.

Representatives from the following Chambers were in attendance: Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce.

Wells Fargo Bank provided business owners the opportunity to learn what banks look for when they review loan applications. Wells Fargo Team Member Network discussed how they provide support for local business owners.

“Wells Fargo is proud to team up with the Multi-Cultural Chambers to create a three-phase coaching platform that can demystify access to capital,” said Chuck Baker, vice president of social impact and sustainability for Wells Fargo. “The first phase is the kickoff event that helps businesses understand how to access capital at a broad level — from crowdfunding via Kiva, to low-interest loans with Working Solutions Microloans, to up to $200 million through Wells Fargo.”

The next phase will be the culturally relevant workshops that will be conducted by each chamber in early 2022. The third phase will be one-on-one coaching that will occur directly with businesses, including in-language tools and direct technical assistance for their members

The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce OAACC was established in 2003. It is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to advance economic opportunity and strengthen Oakland’s Black business community. We provide a number of services for our business associates and members including access to workshops, business development opportunities and advocacy.

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San Francisco to Mandate Vaccines for City Contractors to Protect City Workers and The Public

Any contractor who works in-person on a regular basis alongside public employees must get vaccinated



Close up of a mature man taking a vaccine in his doctors office

Mayor London N. Breed issued a Mayoral Order on October 8 mandating vaccination for all City contractors who work alongside City employees on a regular basis at a facility owned, leased, or controlled by the City. This mandate will also apply to all City Commissioners. All contractors will be required to be fully vaccinated by December 31.

This City Contractor Mandate will work in concert with San Francisco’s Worker Vaccine Mandate, which requires all City employees to be fully vaccinated no later than November 1, with earlier deadlines for those who work in high-risk facilities like jails, hospitals, and homeless shelters.

Contractors who work in high-risk settings are already required to be vaccinated under Health Orders. The City Contractor Mandate will ensure that all those who regularly work alongside City workers are vaccinated. Examples include:

  • If a contractor employee has a work station at a City office building and is working there in person a few days per week.
  • If a nonprofit employee is working at the nonprofit work site where City employees are regularly working.

Contractors may grant exemptions for employees based on qualifying medical reasons or religious beliefs consistent with the City Worker Mandate.

“Our vaccine mandate for City employees has always been about protecting the public we serve and protecting our workforce,” said Breed. “By extending the mandate to contractors who work alongside our City workers, we are continuing to do everything we can to keep our City workforce strong and healthy. Vaccines are safe and effective, and they are our path out of this pandemic. San Francisco is leading the way on implementing strong vaccine policies that will lift us up in the months ahead as we push forward with our recovery.”

Under the Mayoral Order, the City Administrator’s Office is tasked with issuing processes and procedures to implement this vaccine mandate and providing guidance to City Departments and Contractors regarding the policy.

“Our workforce is our most valuable asset. We’ve leaned upon our workers to continue delivering critical public services throughout the pandemic because that’s what we all signed up to do,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “Vaccine requirements to those who work beside us is a natural extension of our commitment to protect our workforce and the public we serve.”

San Francisco’s City workforce has one of these highest vaccination rates of any City in the country. Currently, over 94% of City workers are vaccinated against COVID-19, with just over 2,000 employees out of 35,000 registered as either unvaccinated or have not yet reported their status.

Under San Francisco’s vaccination requirement for employees, which was the first implemented in the country, all City employees must be fully vaccinated no later than November 1 in order to continue employment with the City, with exemptions provided for qualifying medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs.

“We are pleased with our high vaccination rate and that our employees, who interact with vulnerable populations on a daily basis, have made the decision to protect their colleagues and our communities by getting vaccinated,” said Carol Isen, Human Resources director. “Mandating that all contractors who work alongside City employees, is the right thing to do and supports all of the precautions we have taken thus far to keep our workers healthy and safe throughout the pandemic.”

The City Contractor Mandate, as well as the City Worker Mandate, are part of San Francisco’s broader effort to combat the impacts of COVID-19 with the most effective tool available: the vaccine.

Currently, over 82% of eligible San Francisco residents are fully vaccinated, which is the highest of any major city in the country. San Francisco has a current average of 77 cases per day, a drop from 309 at the height of the summer’s surge.

Cases among fully vaccinated individuals are currently at 7.4 per 100,000, while among those not fully vaccinated are 14.4 per 100,000. The vaccines remain highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death.

“City contractors are an important part of the broader workforce that delivers needed services to San Francisco, so it’s important for contractors to also be vaccinated and contribute to lowering the spread of COVID-19 on City facilities and among staff,” said Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax. “Vaccines remain our best defense against COVID-19, and everyone who is eligible for should get one.”


This story comes from the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Communication.

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Black History

The Way West: Reparations Task Force Looks at Black Migration to California

During its third meeting, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans looked at reasons formerly enslaved Black people migrated to the Golden State — and detailed setbacks they faced after arriving. 



"Scott and Violet Arthur arrive with their family at Chicago's Polk Street Depot on Aug. 30, 1920, two months after their two sons were lynched in Paris, Texas. The picture has become an iconic symbol of the Great Migration. (Chicago History Museum)"[1]/ Wikimedia Commons

 I was leaving the South

to fling myself into the unknown…

I was taking a part of the South

to transplant in alien soil,

to see if it could grow differently,

if it could drink of new and cool rains,

bend in strange winds,

respond to the warmth of other suns

and, perhaps, to bloom.

- Richard Wright, the author of Black Boy, 1945

    During its third meeting, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans looked at reasons formerly enslaved Black people migrated to the Golden State — and detailed setbacks they faced after arriving. 

    During the period historians dub the “Great Migration”– which lasted from the early 1900s through the 1970s – approximately 6 million Black Americans relocated from Deep South states to Northern, Midwestern, Eastern and Western states. Significant numbers ended up in California, escaping Jim Crow laws and racial violence and seeking economic opportunity. 

     Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, “described the movement as “a redistribution of Black people.”  

    “It was the only time in America’s history that American citizens had to flee the land of their birth just to be recognized as the citizens that they had always been,” Wilkerson said, pointing out that no other group of Americans has been displaced under similar conditions.

     After President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the Reconstruction era began. It was a period of prosperity as some Blacks in different places began to establish businesses and communities; contest for (and win) political office; establish schools, and more. 

     But it was short-lived because of white backlash, Wilkerson said. 

     By the early 1900s, racist white Southerners began to terrorize freed Black people with cross burnings, and racial violence — and discriminate against them by instituting Jim Crow laws. 

     There was a spike in lynchings, and a sharecropping system that mirrored the conditions of slavery began to take form in the 11 former slaveholding states.

     Under those policies, opportunities for Blacks were almost nonexistent.

    After World War World I began in Europe in 1914, there was a shortage of labor. Factories started luring Black people North to fill vacancies. By 1919, an estimated 1 million Southern Blacks had departed for the North.

    By the 1930s, the Great Depression had slowed Black migration. But the revival of the exodus from the South, a period historians call the “Second Great Migration,” started around 1939. 

     This time around, California was a major destination. 

    As Black people left the South, Wilkerson said, they “followed three, beautifully predictable streams — pathways to freedom.” The first two led to Eastern and Midwestern states. The “West Coast stream,” Wilkerson told the task force, “carried people from Louisiana and Texas out to California and the entire West Coast.”

    World War II created an expansion of the country’s defense industry, according to the Southern California public television network,. During this time, more jobs were available to African Americans. California cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland began to see an influx of Black people.

    According to KCET, a Southern California public television network, the Black population in Los Angeles grew from 63,700 in the 1940s to 763,000 in 1970. The migration was largely fueled by job openings in industries manufacturing automobiles, rubber, and steel. The presence of Blacks became evident along Central Avenue between 8th and 20th streets in California’s largest city.

     “(Black southerners) were recruited to the North and West to fill labor shortages in the steel mills, factories and shipyards,” Wilkerson said. “It turned out that they wanted the labor but did not want the people.”

    The response to the Great Migration was “structural barriers of exclusion,” Wilkerson said. Restrictive covenants required white property owners to agree not to sell to Black people and many areas in large and mid-range cities were redlined to deny services to Blacks. 

   “By law and by policies, parents, grandparents or great-grandparents of almost every African American alive today (were denied) the greatest source of wealth in this country: homeownership, the American Dream itself,” Wilkerson said.  

    “With all the testimony I’ve heard, I don’t see how any person of conscience, character and civility could not understand that the facts have been given,” said Task Force vice-chair, the Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of that city’s NAACP branch. 

   The purpose of the nine-member task force is to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans and recommend appropriate ways to educate the Californians about the task force’s findings.

    Sanctioned from 1619 to 1865, legalized slavery in the United States deprived more than 4 million Africans and their descendants of citizenship rights and economic opportunity. After it was abolished, government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels perpetuated, condoned, and often profited from practices that disadvantaged African Americans and excluded them from participation in society.

     “On those sugar, rice, and tobacco fields (in the deep south) were opera singers, jazz musicians, novelists, surgeons, attorneys, professors, accountants, and legislators,” Wilkerson said. “How do we know that? Because that is what they and their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren have often chosen to become.”

    Wilkerson first gained national attention in 1994, when she became the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1994, while employed as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times.

    Wilkerson’s parents are both from Southern states, but they stayed in Wash., D.C., where she was born, after meeting at Howard University. It was her parents’ migration northward, she says, that inspired her research on an era that helped to shape the country’s current demographics.  

     “Slavery has lasted so long that it will not be until next year, 2022, that the United States would have been a free and independent nation for as long as slavery lasted on this soil,” she said. 

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