The Roots of Displacement


root - Posted on 30 September 2002

Just Cause gets on the ballot - Tenants have a chance in Oakland

by Lisa Gray-Garcia aka tiny/PoorNewsNetwork

"I’m Andrea Cousins with Just Cause Oakland, we are an all volunteer coalition of individuals and 20 community organizations that fought long and hard to put a Just Cause Eviction Measure on the Oakland November 2002 ballot. On June 10th we turned in over 35,000 signatures from Oakland voters saying " stop unfair evictions in Oakland," my eyes closed as I let the words of Just Cause’s triumph wash over me and the near capacity crowd at POOR’s Community Newsroom. Maybe now, I thought, I could forget, or perhaps transcend the fear hurt and loss from each of the unjust, No cause evictions my mother and I experienced in Oakland.

"In the last three years evictions have tripled in Oakland and predominantly lower income people, people on fixed incomes, people of color, and families have been evicted in Oakland", as Andrea continued my mind wandered once again to my not so distant heinous past.

"You need to go" I don’t remember my landlords name, nor even how he looked, he could have been a mirage, yet he wasn’t and with those three little words my life and the life of my family would change forever. I remember carefully locking the tears in my tired skull.

I remember trying to look sort of tough and confused at the same time as I replied calmly, "You have no legal basis for evicting us"

And then his response, each word becoming a long dark echo, like in a really bad horror movie, "WE DON’T neeeeeed a reason to EVICT YOU"

And then the memory goes dark, my life from four years ago, which for a scant eight months had become a little bit normal, a little bit stable, a little bit safe, cause my family and I had a home with neighbors and furniture and a bathroom, a home, that we could sort of afford. And then it was over. We ended up homeless.

And therein lies the root of displacement… gentrification… homelessness. You see, poor folk like me are already unstable. It is so easy to throw us off course, to mess us up – there is no trust fund or back-up – no family with money or savings to fall back on and yet, life happens, we lose our jobs, get sick and have no insurance or get evicted, and in just that blink we can be devastated, permanently scarred. Unable to climb back up. Gone like we were never there.

"What we found is that majority of the evictions that have happened in Oakland over the last three years are evictions for no reason, and when you look at who’s being evicted, its primarily so that people that can pay higher rents can move in so that the developer, the landlord, the rental company will attain greater profit. Not really looking to maintain a sense of community and have families feel a sense of stability in Oakland." Andrea concluded and I was brought back to the moment.

Me and my mom finally met up with a decent landlord who even let us pay rent over time whenever we got behind due to our poverty. We are still at-risk, we own nothing and I haven’t stopped looking over our collective shoulders, but for a moment we can breathe. Unfortunately thousands of other Oakland families continue to face eviction for no cause from their landlords, families like the Sloans who are working with POOR Magazine to fight the unjust eviction they recieved from their landlords; The City Of Oakland. We will fight for and with them and all the other poor folk who are facing injustices as long as there is breath in all of our lungs, but now because of the tireless work of all of the organizers and tenants involved in Just Cause we JUST might be able to Win!

Please get involved with Just Cause Oakland-now that its on the ballot they need your help more than ever - call them at (510) 464-1011

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