Skyrocketing rents, multimillion-dollar homes, and an epidemic of evictions have become fixtures of life in San Mateo County. Widening income inequality is feeding this housing crisis, and decades of discriminatory policy decisions have excluded poor people and people of color.
The UN Human Rights Committee condemns the criminalization of homelessness in the U.S.. Santa Cruz attorney Ed Frey says, “Sleeping is and has always been a human right that should be protected and defended by international convention. The time is right for a full-throated advocacy of that right at the highest levels.”
Under Mayor Tom Bates, Berkeley has become more conservative in its social policies, and much more intolerant towards homeless people. Mayor Bates and some City Council members have tried repeatedly to criminalize homelessness. As a result, people on the streets have been under attack repeatedly in recent years.
After Robert’s wife died two years ago, he lost his will to survive. Since then he has lived on the streets. He says what is most disheartening is the stigma attached to homelessness. He said he is looked upon as if he isn’t human.
Many of Oakland’s homeless people are African Americans displaced or evicted, and now forced to move into illegal encampments. Oakland officials have used the decline in the African-American population to market Oakland to outsiders.
“With the current market and the housing crisis, we’re seeing landlords and investors taking advantage of the weak legal protections, exploiting the holes that exist in the law in order to turn a quick profit,” says Daniel Saver. “In the wake behind them, there’s a trail of human cost. It’s destroying communities.
Our entire community, unhoused and housed alike, is living in the Shadow of Bell v. Boise. Homeless people are being criminalized in violation of their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The hope is that we can all emerge into the sunlight, equally free.
I had been homeless for two years in Berkeley and the things bound up in the protest reminded me so strongly of my own sentiments while I was without housing in this city. So I borrowed a sleeping bag and I headed over to the occupation at Old City Hall.
“This decision should not only lead to compensation for the tens of thousands of Los Angeles Section 8 recipients that were hurt by the illegal reduction in benefits going back in 2004-2006, but also protects all Section 8 recipients going forward, wherever they may be.” — Barrett Litt, attorney for Section 8 tenants