Carroll Fife Cuts Her Oakland City Council Teeth With Encampment Amendment Issue
Oakland City Council will meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss a number of agenda items. Among items to be considered are some simple extensions of emergency declarations, a proposal to lease land near the Chabot Space & Science Center for use by the school district and clarification of the city’s regulations on use of surveillance.
While there are several other issues of consequence, including discussion of further charges in Oscar Grant’s case and an independent report on the murder of Chauncey Bailey, the last item is bound to attract a good deal of public attention and will give newly-elected Carroll Fife an opportunity to bring her housing advocacy game to the floor where legislation is crafted in her first full council meeting.
The item seeks to clarify what is meant by “alternative shelter” and the guidelines surrounding when and how encampments are swept out going forward.
Fife became a local household name when last year’s Moms for Housing movement caught national attention, though her work in racial justice and housing rights spans decades. As the new representative for District 3, she will have the opportunity to impact the system from within.
On Tuesday, the council will consider amendments to Resolution No. 88077 and the Encampment Management Policy, as introduced by Nikki Forunato Bas, who represents District 2, and Council President Rebecca Kaplan. The first no-brainer amendment establishes that congregate settings are considered a “greater risk” than outdoor encampments while the COVID-19 pandemic still threatens public health.
The original resolution demanded that people be offered at least two weeks of “individual housing units or alternative shelter” prior to encampments being dismantled. The amended legislation would extend the alternative shelter stay offer to at least 90 days and requires that those offers be made at least 30 days prior to encampment clearing.
A point of contention lies in what constitutes “alternative shelter,” how homeless programs are managed and whether program rules provide more opportunity to criminalize people.
Fife turned to Twitter Monday night to reach out for public feedback on the proposed amendments, expressing her desire to “do right” by Oakland in her new role. Some responses highlighted the argument surrounding use of “Tuff Sheds” at cabin villages, which many advocates assert are constructed of toxic materials that pose greater threat than tent living at encampments. Others feel the only humane solution is a repeal of the encampment clearing policy entirely.
It is argued that encampment villages are often filled with tight-knit groups of people who work to ensure each other’s safety and that people are more at risk when those groups are disbanded.
The encampment and shelter topic is an excellent place for Fife to jump into the fray with her expertise and compassion. The longtime advocate gets her chance to have her voice heard and her vote count Tuesday at 1 p.m.
The Oakland City Council meeting agenda and supporting documents are available to the public here.