Moms 4 Housing Represent the Ultimate Fight Between Greed and Good
Some people look down on homelessness — they make assumptions that the dire situation is brought on by bad personal behavior or laziness. You hear people make callous and highly generalized arguments in comment forums on the topic. The blame tends to fall on drug abuse and therefore, people suffering in the streets are somehow unworthy of help and housing.
What many comfortable people don’t want to admit is that sometimes you can do everything right, to the best of your ability, and still find yourself struggling to keep a roof over your head. They don’t want to admit that this “booming” economy is only booming for some and has exasperated the challenges of daily life for many. They don’t want to admit that some people have been disadvantaged for countless generations, making the climb up this ridiculously steep hill all that much more difficult. People don’t want to admit that we’ve all played a part, that we benefit in some way from the misery of others.
People don’t want to acknowledge that some of the unsheltered people they pass by on the way to yoga class are just like Dominique Walker and the three other mothers who took matters into their own hands.
But Walker and the movement dubbed “Moms 4 Housing” are making certain that people take notice.
After Walker came home to Oakland to escape an abusive relationship, she found neighborhoods void of everything and everyone she knew. The support system she would need was displaced with the countless people who have been pushed out of their homes and ways of life so that greedy developers and investors could capitalize on the “booming” housing market.
She got a job but it wasn’t enough to pay the rising cost of rent in the East Bay. She participated in a program that would give her the chance she needed: first month’s rent and a deposit. The Bay Area Community Services program went under just as she was set to benefit from it, funding was cut because of shady program practices and misappropriation of funds. Even the program that aimed to help disadvantaged people had gotten greedy.
She and three other working mothers had had enough. Every day, as they struggled to keep their kids safe and secure, they walked by vacant homes owned by out-of-town management and investment firms. Sure, owners should be able to renovate properties and rent them out, but there’s a problem when corporate investors get involved. They don’t see the neighborhoods they’re profiting from. They don’t have to pass by the countless people that just want a fair shake. They don’t care for the families and local cultures they’re upending in their endless pursuit for profit.
There’s a problem when people who are willing to work are living in vehicles and on streets while warm homes are left empty everywhere they turn.
They took over one of those houses on Magnolia Street in Oakland, this particular place owned by Wedgewood, a Redonda-based investment company. They didn’t destroy the place – in fact, they fixed it up. They cherished every day their children could home to an actual home after school, a place where they could do their homework and eat dinner together without so much anxiety.
They attempted to meet with Wedgewood in hopes they could work something out, but the company took a self-righteous stance, claiming they would not meet with the women until they’d vacated the property. They even got biblical with it, quoting the “thou shall not steal” commandment. But like so many other conditional “Christians” these days, they’re cherrypicking. What would Jesus think of the current condition? Would the man who considered himself homeless and demanded that we care for the poor and sick among us appreciate a greedy investor invoking God’s word? Do you really think Jesus would have been cool with working moms and their children out on the streets while some fat cat lined his pockets? Is that the vision he had for humanity? Seriously?
The religious hypocrisy is nauseating on its own, but it pales in comparison to our willful ignorance about the cumulative disadvantage heaped on our black communities with years of inequity, especially in the area of housing. For a trip through our sordid history, check out the Race: The House We Live In for a basic lesson in how we legally disadvantaged black residents, how redlining caused generations of disruption in economic equity.
The moms were served an eviction notice Dec. 3, but they’re fighting back. After filing legal paperwork, they at least have until Dec. 30 when they go to court. Their children will get to celebrate Christmas inside a home.
It’s obviously impossible to demand that every investor hand over their properties to homeless residents willing to work and pay to the best of their ability. But it’s probably what Jesus would have wanted, right? Imagine what people could do with their lives if college, health care and housing weren’t such an incredible burden. Wouldn’t we be contributing to a better society if we treated those things as rights, especially in a country and in a state that boasts such extreme wealth?
Isn’t it time we prioritized people over profit?
You can help by donating here to support the movement to reclaim vacant homes “from predatory big banks and real estate speculators to house homeless mothers and children.” You want to find the true meaning of Christmas? Start there.