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The Journey HOMEfulness- A Real Solution to Homelessness

Updated: Apr 3

By LeaJay Harper / Po’ Peoples Media Correspondent 

LeaJay with her Homefulness /POOR Magazine Family 

I lean my head back looking at pastel cotton candy in the sky, breathing in the smell of the creator's tears freshly falling to the ground, with an exhale- my relief of being finally home as Homefulness’ 16th resident.

8 Months ago, I was frantically tying down my belongings while a whole swamp full of hungry crocs impatiently waited for me to drop one crumb of resistance out the door of my RV. A perfect Oakland morning was the mood while a very familiar hurricane of being swept was my reality. 

The 10 years I was unhoused in the east bay, the countless amount of times I've been pushed, scooted, and threatened with eviction from my temporary safe space, each event promised to have new trauma to add to my shelf.

Oakland keeps wasting money trying to help the homeless, but all it's done is further traumatize the already vulnerable population. Oakland promises to provide safe shelter for housed and unhoused residents, and help them find long-term housing. 

They've used different tactics, like constantly sweeping encampments around the city to building tough shed camps and relocating RVs to empty lots. But what if you run out of cabin time or project funding? People need wrap around services to make sure they get and keep placement.

Wood Street was one of the biggest encampments in Oakland, housing over 200 people. After organizing efforts of the residents by trying to work with the city to create a solution, they were finally evicted in May of 2023. Opening up a city funded RV lot and a tough shed community was what the final plan was. Both of these options were only supposed to be temporary- a 90 day max stay. A year later, no one has been housed. One example of the broken promises from the city of Oaklands fake ass Bandaids created to waste money. The Wood Street cabin community appears like it was making a positive change in providing a housing solution.

"We moved into the cabins because we wanted to stay together as a community, and the city of Oakland, specifically Latonda Simmons, said that we would all get rapid re-housing services within 90 days. Now a year later, I cant even think of one person that has actually been housed from the cabins,” bluntly states John Janosko, my dear friend and long time Wood St commons resident activist.

Not knowing at the time that this would be the last time I would have to encounter the stomach knots of not knowing where I'm going to sleep once I finally settle again

Every time I'm asked “What do you think homeless people need, or how can we support the unhoused?" my response is ask us. As a person that has never fit into societal norms or stereotypes well, I know one thing for sure: that there is no quick fix to support folks that are unhoused. The fact is that there are many situations that occur that may result in becoming unhoused, the latest scapegoat being covid. But for a woman like me, I had reached the plateau way before 2020, so what the fuck. What I'm trying to say is that we as BIPOC poor people need more than a poverty pimp or a non profit to help. The first ingredient is genuine determination to want to make a life time impact. 

The experience of living outside for myself was a major transition once I became housed.

Not being familiar with my neighborhood and where to access resources. Health and medical was out of my new area. Being in a interdependent community where I felt safe, I really had a time adjusting to being alone. These are a small list of what me and my peers adjust to when we finally get inside. With systems and solutions where we aren't completely removed from our peers is also important. We have been living where we look out for each other, but once we are removed how do we continue to support our community?

What helped me was being welcomed into a community of peers that don't see a community as being in a hierarchical structure, where we are all equally valuable. And with that it gave me a sense of ownership, as well as empowerment to become more involved. 

The bottom line is in order to make a long term impact with our unhoused family we can't throw them away by putting them in homes. Providing people with a supportive community to reconnect them to the resources they lost they lost once they became housed, is what can help people settle into a better quality of life for themselves.

The issues that lead to becoming unhoused isn't a one day process so the healing from that trauma will take love and true commitment from everyone.

LeaJay is recent graduate of PeoplesKool for Povertyskolaz revolutionary journalism workshop and the 16th houseless single mama, warrior, land liberator resident of Homefulness, a homeless peoples solution to homelessness 

John Janasko- (Wood Street Commons) with LeaJay

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