Sojourner Truth Tuesdays: Homelessness

Dearest Friends, 

Seven weeks from today voters will decide who will guide Oakland over the next four years.  At the top of the agenda is the City’s response to homelessness and ensuring equitable COVID19 response and recovery.  

Leadership matters.  We all know that simple answers are simply not good enough to address complex problems.  

It’s #TruthTellingTime.

I know housing. Prior to being elected to City Council, I worked as an affordable housing advocate and developer. The Black community in the Bay Area, in particular, has felt the sting of this housing crisis for decades before it became acute enough to affect all communities and be labeled as a “crisis.” This issue is among the most pressing that we face as a community and in this state.

For years, race-biased capital markets ignored Oakland’s needs – depriving us of retail, housing and business capital. Oakland was ignored as new housing was produced in the suburbs and along the I-80 corridor in more affluent, less diverse cities. Rising rents have made Oakland’s previously suppressed market attractive to investors.  In a departure from Oakland’s long-term housing providers, many new investors have subverted tenant protections or enticed or pressured tenants into taking cash-for-keys offers that leave too many outdoors.  

Over the past 7 years I have worked in partnership with my colleagues and advocates to address the housing crisis. While we yet do not have enough money to meet the need, I am on the forefront pushing the boundaries and demanding greater response, more resources and deep empathy for both the unhoused and housed.  Since taking office I have pushed many innovations and funding efforts including:

  • Partnered with our County Supervisor to pioneer the Compassionate Communities initiative, setting up the City’s first supported sanitation services and inspiring the establishment of sanctioned campgrounds
  • Secured 10s of millions of dollars in new homelessness funding by pushing to include $150 Million for Affordable Housing in the Infrastructure Bond (Measure KK) and the Parks Measure (Measure Q)
  • Engaged Congresswoman Barbara Lee and led the effort to turn back draconian reductions in Section 8 vouchers
  • Pushed to protect single room occupancy transient hotels
  • Enacted the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance – removing discriminatory barriers for our returning citizens

I have a plan.  Last week the Council approved the purchase of two hotels and a vacated college dorm to expand the number of transitional units.  Over the next few weeks, I will work with the Administration to realign our response to homelessness to provide our residents decent, dedicated spaces to create dignified campgrounds and launch a student housing project to get families with school-aged children placed in new units.

I will continue to advocate for increased coordination between the County and the City to meet the demands for our families in need. To truly redress homelessness, we need a full restoration of HUD funding at the national level, a workers’ program that provides meaningful work for homeless residents and modernization of zoning and exclusionary housing practices.

I’ve decided to stay in the fight.  You can help.

We have so much more work to do. Visit https://www.lynetteforoakland.com/ to learn more, volunteer, and donate.

I appreciate all your support,

Lynette