I have seen something quite remarkable start to develop over the last few months. In the face of increased pressure on working people to find decent housing, some of the most hard-pressed people in the Bay Area have not only been standing their ground against threats of eviction—they are also traveling across neighborhoods to support comrades in other struggles doing the same.
The United States misappropriates resources (including the human ones) in a business-as-usual profit over people custom. For decades, the U.S. prison industrial complex has embraced tough-on-crime legislation to branch its growth through the incarceration of its citizens. One of the many downsides of this policy is the increase in people living in squalor while others are “sheltered” in the name of public safety.
The first time I meet Cella Jones, she popped her head out of her tent at the 22nd Street Richmond encampment, the largest camp in Richmond. The camp, where about 60 people live, has been ‘posted’ for two weeks later, which means the residents have been scheduled to be evicted soon, and all their belongings will be cleared away.
Jesse Arreguín has been the Mayor of Berkeley since 2016. He ran on a platform of building more affordable housing, raising the minimum wage, and changing the city’s approach to addressing the homeless crisis. In the years since, he has been met with both praise and criticism: while some have embraced his leadership, others have argued that he is not as progressive on the issue of homelessness as he led his constituency to believe—such as with his yes vote on the council’s recent overnight RV parking ban.
On March 6, the City of Oakland backed down from evicting the residents of a homeless encampment on a plot of land at the corner of E12th Street and 22nd Avenue in East Oakland. This happened after one resident filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself and the six other residents.
On November 5, 2018, I was released from prison after serving 38 continuous years behind bars. Upon my return to freedom, a parole agent drove me to an area of San Jose that was dotted with cheap hotels. He dropped me off on The Alameda, a boulevard in San Jose, with everything I owned stuffed in a backpack and a small duffle bag.