Housing, Schools, and the Crisis for Oakland Families

Johannes Mehserle sentencing protests, Oakland, CA

Life can be hard in Oakland, harder even, if you have children, live in the Flatlands and don’t own a home.  One of our families is learning this lesson in spades.  You can see the news report here.  It ain’t pretty, new homeowner/landlord wants old tenants out—for no “good” reason but greed.  This leads to an alleged physical assault on a three year old child, threats of deportations, forcing entry into the home, and continual harassment that verges on menacing.   And the family needs to find new housing in a market they can’t afford.

As a school person, you are constantly slapped in the face by the out of school problems that interfere with learning.  Here you have a family afraid to leave their house, kids traumatized, being evicted for no good reason, and soon to be homeless.  They have found an apartment in Modesto (maybe), but that means leaving behind their support systems, changing schools, and uprooting their kids.  And literally every time a child changes schools, their learning is disrupted.

This is happening more and more in Oakland, as owners seek to cash in at the expense of renters.  And as you run through the chain of events you see just how disadvantaged in the process families are.  They often resist “official” contact and don’t proactively enforce their rights, and when they do engage they are mostly disappointed by a foreign “justice” system that seems stacked against them.

Police that don’t write up reports of alleged crimes, a judicial system around evictions that favors landlords, who know and can manipulate the process, and really nobody to stand up for, or with,  the underdog.   All of this sludge flows downhill onto families and eventually accumulates at schools, where we are left trying to address the scars of a thousand wrongs, and really have to address some of them if we are ever to get to the nitty gritty of teaching and learning.

And while inequity reigns, I love Oakland for those who push back.  In this case, as in many, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) (thanks Emma), and the Community School for Creative Education Charter School (thanks Ida), have led this charge.  The charge needs more bodies though and if you want to be part of the mobilization against the eviction, or if you have resources to help our family out, please join us.  The scales are tilted against us now, but if enough of us line up on the right side, I know we can shift the balance.

What do you think?

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