Portrait of the Wood Street Christmas party, which took place on December 17. (Scott Braley)

Hello, My name is Jessica Blalock, but I most commonly answer to “Freeway.” My husband, Joel, and I are residents of the Wood Street Commons, and today I am writing to you on behalf of our community. We need your help.Since 2018, the Wood Street settlement has blossomed as a place of refuge for many of Oakland’s unhoused citizens. The majority of us were displaced when the city conducted sweeps at other encampments. Through one avenue or another, we found a home on Wood Street. The numbers started small, then grew over the last few years. But something else grew as well, our sense of community and belonging.

Throughout our time here, we’ve worked cooperatively with the city and various organizations, some of which have been commissioned to serve us. With every demand by these institutions, we have risen to the occasion and worked together to see that our proverbial side of the street was kept clean.

However, despite the promises made by the powers that be, more often than not, our cooperation was ignored and our own needs and requests have fallen on deaf ears. We have watched, disheartened, as the land that we were once told we could be on, was suddenly snatched away from us, often with little or no notice.

All too often, we’re left with very few, if any, of our belongings, and shuffled around from one plot of land to another like cattle, with fear and intimidation all too familiar tactics used to insure our cooperation.

This grief was felt again most recently at the shocking news of the impending January 9 eviction. Is it such a coincidence that the day that our city is to celebrate the inauguration of our new mayor, Sheng Thao, is the same day as the evictions.

We had been making such great strides before this eviction notice, such as: the bike ride to Sacramento to raise awareness of our fight here, the charitable peer outreach program, “Homeless Helping Homeless,” spearheaded by our own John Janosko (ig: @woodstreetcommons), our community efforts and celebrations of triumph in City Hall, the recognition of our individual community members’ birthdays, our resource fairs, etc. 

We are human beings, no different than our housed counterparts. We are artists, activists, chefs, carpenters, teachers, students, caretakers—we have different strengths and weaknesses, and we don’t always see eye-to-eye. But when the chips are down and one of us is in trouble, we band together to pull that individual up.

Now, it’s our settlement that needs the support of the greater Oakland community. We are citizens of this city too and as such we have basic rights. We aren’t asking for outlandish requests to be honored. All we are asking is for the local government to make good on the promises they have not delivered. Promises which so far have been empty and unfulfilled.

By signing your name in support of Wood Street Commons residents, you are showing our city that from this moment on We Stand United, housed and unhoused, and the indifference that has preceded this until now is over. You can sign your name online at www.woodstreetcommons.com.

Desmond Tutu once said, “If you choose to be silent in the face of oppression, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

We cannot afford to wait any longer to have our voices heard. Every day that passes is a day closer to the demolition of everything we’ve strived to achieve.

Our deepest appreciation and gratitude in advance, and may you and yours have a safe and festive holiday season. Please sign up for our text alert system for updates and to stay connected. Text “wood” to (205) 354-6992.

The residents of the Wood Street Commons

At the Wood Street Christmas party on Dec. 17, residents expressed gratitude for their community. Residents served drinks at an open bar with warm drinks and wine. (Scott Braley

This letter was written by the plaintiffs on the Blain et al v. Caltrans et al case, all of whom currently reside at Wood Street.