On Friday, October 16, Bay Area Legal Aid attorneys submitted public comment strongly opposing the City of Oakland’s proposed “Homeless Encampment Management Policy.” Implementation of the policy as written would result in unconstitutional seizures of property and denial of due process rights to those living unsheltered in Oakland. It would needlessly increase policing, accelerate the criminalization of poverty, and unlawfully punish unsheltered people with no other place to go. The policy was written without the input of the Homeless Advisory Commission, which is scheduled to launch next month and will provide an avenue for citizen input that the process leading to the current policy lacked.
The conjunction of overpolicing and homelessness brings together two systems of inequity that disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. Because it lacks a racial justice analysis and defers questions of equity until after implementation, the proposed policy threatens to deepen the already severely discriminatory impact of existing housing and homelessness policy. Finally, by creating further disruption and instability for unhoused individuals, the policy threatens to disconnect those most in need of public health support from critical resources in the midst of a pandemic. In this, too, the proposed policy will deepen racial injustice, as BIPOC communities are already disproportionately harmed by COVID-19.
Faced with these concerns, BayLegal strongly urges the City to reject the proposed policy, or to delay taking any action on it until these concerns for civil rights, racial justice, and public health have been addressed.
- “A controversial homelessness policy comes to the Oakland City Council on Tuesday. Here’s how to watch,” Natalie Orenstein, Oaklandside, October 19, 2020. (The article quotes our public comment letter and provides substantial detail on the proposed policy).