Updated: Jul 12
1st ThankU to Carroll Fife and Rebecca Kaplan for listening to houseless peoples solutions to homelessness.
We are houseless, indigenous, DIsabled, criminalized, Black, Brown mamaz, families, youth and elders from all four corners of mama Earth- and as our indigenous ancestors have taught us - Mama Earth is Not, nor has ever been, for sale- As first Nations Land Back/Black Land Theft/Decolonizers and revolutionaries teach and walk right now - this is occupied Turtle island - and all of the settler colonial laws that guide the notion of “private property” ownership, profiting off of Mama Earth, eviction, homelessness, displacement, sweeps, and gentrification are rooted in the genocide of Colonization.
Until the lies of krapitalist and private property are truly resisted homelessness will not only continue but increase until it has most of us outside, or caught in the deadly and dangerous struggle of housing insecurity.
Homefulness was conceived and visioned by my houseless, indigenous, disabled mama and me, her daughter, while we were sleeping on park benches, shelter beds and the back seats of cars if they hadnt been towed by a violent system that criminalizes not having enough money for rent or a roof. A system that puts the settler lie of private property before people - that rewards hoarding of things and land over the safe shelter of children and elders.
We poor and houseless peoples teach conscious folks with stolen land, hoarded and stolen resources how to radically redistribute and practice Interdependence and listen to poverty skolaz/indigenous solutions to poverty and homelessness, in a school POOR Magazine launched called PeopleSkool. From years of this teaching we raised the blood-stained into love-stained dollars to “buy” a small parcel of Mama Earth in Deep East Huchiun- (Ohlone Land) Oakland
POOR Magazine- the poor and indigenous people-led movement that launched homefulness - asked permission of Talking Chief/Spokesperson at Confederated Villages of Lisjan/Ohlone Corrina Gould before we proceeded as this is not our land of origin and all peoples should be asking permission and paying Shummi Tax before they do anything with stolen and occupied land anywhere on Turtle Island. Corrina agreed to be on our All Nations Elder Family council and help steward and guide this powerful, prayerful project into being.
And so we began on Interdependence Day 2011 with a Prayer ceremony asking ancestors of all four corners for blessings and guidance - From Maya to Mama Africa. From Moana Nui to Mama Earth. We launched our elephant circle (matriarchal like elephants and the way all of us houseless/indigenous peoples make decisions collectively) we built out the existing structures and housed 6 houseless elders and families (this houseless mama and my Sun included) in rent-free, mold-and pest free-love, safe and healing -filled housing, because a roof is not all us traumatized housless folks need .
We launched a liberation, tuition free school and a poor peoples liberated radio station- we launched garden boxes for the whole BlackArthur ComeUnity to have access to healthy, pesticide free veggies that have been stolen from all of our communities and finally the Sliding Scale Cafe which currently shares free healthy food, diapers, produce and groceries with over 800 families and elders per week.
We began working with pro-bono architects and engineers and proposed a vision of truly green housing - straw bale/ ancient building technology. After being approved by the zoning dept - the building and permit dept said it was a “fire hazard” and blocked this vision of building that would have reversed the extractive industries of lumber and steel and excess resources used for modern structures. But we are poor people with nowhere else to go. This was yet another little murder of the soul and we immediately got to work designing a concrete and wood structure - Big Shouts Out to Architect Bob Theis, Dunya Alwan, Joe Igber, and many more housed and formally educated folks who have leveraged their paper privilege to help us all along- and never flagged, as well as fellow houseless Black and Brown and poor people from BlackArthur (MacArthur) and all of the Bay Area.
The wood and concrete building design was “approved” . We began building - The whole time being hit with an endless series of exorbitant permit fees, ranging from 180 to 29,000 to over 70,000 for the so-called utility companies aka what i have re-named “CorpRapeshuns like Department of Water and Power and PGE - at many times, causing us to completely cease work until we could raise the money from our radical redistributors and revolutionary ComeUnity Reparators (See Poverty Scholarship - Poor People- led theory, Art, Words and Tears Across Mama Earth published by Poor Press)
But as poor and houseless people we had no choice to continue with our dream, our vision, our hope. As this dream was, like all of poor peoples visions, rooted in our lives, survival and ancestors and our next seven generations.
And then in 2019, when we were at the end of all of our building requirements, the violent and insane impact fee for affordable housing was levied against us. At this point we were so unbelieving that this could even happen. And also were left feeling so betrayed. After all we were the “Impacted People” how could we possibly raise this money or even in good conscience pay it while us and fellow impacted people were still being swept, evicted and criminalized.
It was at this point that we began reaching out to every council person. To our community and to ourselves, wondering what we could do. And how this could even happen.
Finally three years and useless parking requirements and thousands of dollars raised and spent and endless homelessness trauma for our houseless families and mamaz and elders who were supposed to move in and have been blocked, here we are.
I can only say in closing that this has been a violent process, violent because it has not only been emotionally and physically traumatic, but violent because people's lives have been forced to hang in the balance. Because families who needed housing were forced to “wait” and be houseless longer, which really means, hopeless and at -risk and in danger and terrified longer. These are unspeakable traumas which houseless people struggle with everyday. We are not different or special, but in the face of a different and powerful solution, the City of Oakland rejected, charged, harassed, disrespected and CONfused us, but never ONCE supported us. This is the violence done to countless houseless peoples suffering the violence called sweeps everyday all across this stolen land. Oakland needs to do Better Be BEtter and be a model of Decolonization and what i call degentriFUkation not continue the violence of removal, displacement and terror. To solve a Homeless emergency we as people need to reject settler colonial codes and lies about private property. We need to listen and follow 1st nations LandBAck Black Land and Houseless people's visions. To solve Homelessness you all need to pass an ordinance so no more houseless and poor builders will face these impact fees, or any of these exorbitant fees, ridiculous parking demands, and settler-colonialist deed requirements So we can all be Homeful - Not Homeless
And lastly, we will NOT take a much too late $40,000 line item from the City of Oakland, but rather ask that you use it to pay for a permanent person who focuses on guiding poor and houseless peoples-led building projects get through the settler colonial zoning and building codes until you change them to SUPPORT us and not do more violence to us who just want to live.
In struggle and prayer for ancestors, Mama Earth and all of us…
(lisa) tiny gray-garcia, formerly houseless, incarcerated povertySkola, daughter of Dee, mama of Tiburcio, co-founder of POOR Magazine/PrensaPOBRE, visionary of Homefulness poet and author of Criminal of Poverty Growing Up Homeless in America and many more