Drawing of fists raised in the air.
(Inti Gonzalez/Youth Spirit Artworks. You can find more of Inti’s art at IntiGonzalez.com)

“The blind cannot lead the blind,” “Each one teach one,” “I can show you better than I can tell you.”

Oakland is a city of so many races and cultures. Different, diverse, and from so many kinds of backgrounds. But one thing that unites us is the caring and loving people we are. No matter how hard the struggle may be, we always take care of each other. We are all in the same boat—struggling to live. We take matters into our own hands to get through life.

“The blind cannot lead the blind,” “Each one teach one,” and my favorite, “I can show you better than I can tell you.” These are all phrases that we’ve heard or used before in life. It’s usually when we want to express deeply how we feel. When we’re feeling like ‘Man fuck this! I’m gon’ do it myself!’ Sometimes we don’t realize we are doing this. But instead of waiting for the city to do something, instead of just going in and out of the city hall talking to actors trained by the theatrics of city officials, instead of waiting for politicians’ designs to make impossible promises that we cannot ever see—we do it ourselves.

While this homeless state of emergency and the affordable housing crisis are being debated in and out of city hall by anti-homeless politicians and housed residents, the unhoused are still hurting and being hurt. The most in need continue to be neglected. The unhoused are still unhoused, and our numbers grow.

The label of “homeless” has unfortunate connotations. It implies that one is a failure, is “less than”, and it undermines self-esteem and progressive forward motion. The use of the term unhoused, instead of “homeless” has a profound personal impact upon those in insecure housing situations. The general understanding of the “homeless” by the greater public is often based upon legal definitions of homelessness, set down by specific governing bodies. The term “homeless” was first recognized by the UN in the 1940s, as an effort to categorize people lacking regular living quarters.

The fact that the number of un- housed residents continues to grow is not acceptable. And it makes no sense that California is the richest state in the U.S., but we are leading the nation in the unhoused state of emergency. California has almost half of all this county’s unhoused. The United States is a rich country, and to see these deplorable conditions that the government is allowing, by international human rights standards, it’s unacceptable.

I’m guided by human rights law as one of the leaders and advocates of The Village. We are one of Oakland’s leading service and advocacy movements for the unhoused. And we believe we must take matters into our own hands. “The blind cannot lead the blind,” “Each one teach one,” and my favorite, “I can show you better than I can tell you.” We must create our own solutions to deal with this problem. We must rely on ourselves because the city who should have dealt with it has failed to do so. If we keep on waiting, more of us will be unhoused, more of us will be suffering, more of us will be ignored on the streets.

Word on tha Curb covers the struggle to exist on the street. It is produced by The Village—an advocacy group in Oakland.