'Village' Activists Seek City Support For Building Homeless Encampments

Organizers behind a homeless encampment that briefly claimed a section of a park near MacArthur BART say they are continuing to build shelters for homeless people and want the city to allow — and officially sanction — their project.

The Village, also known as The Promised Land, was a community created in Grove Shafter Park at 36th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way; organizers built five small structures from plywood, pallets and two-by-fours, installed a hot water shower and set strict rules for the 16 people living there, including no drinking or drugs.

In addition to providing housing and services, organizers also provided hot meals and medical care to other area homeless people, even if they weren’t willing to abide by the residency rules.

But citing complaints from the neighborhood and health and safety issues, the city evicted residents and tore down the structures on February 2; after that, the park was indefinitely closed for cleanup.

City spokesman Harry Hamilton said the park cleanup cost $38,000, including costs incurred by city Public Works and the Police Department. Necessary repairs included fixing the fence and restoring the water supply, he said.

Since then, Village organizers haven’t stopped building and have erected new structures in undisclosed areas throughout Oakland, organizer Needa Bee told Hoodline Tuesday.

The group also submitted a proposal to the city on Monday afternoon asking for permission to continue building, suggesting several locations throughout Oakland, including the park from which they were already evicted.

“We’re giving the city an opportunity to rectify the inhumane act they did, giving them an opportunity to do the right thing, which is stand behind their constituents,” Bee said.

Houses under construction at the Village. | PHOTO: ASIANS FOR BLACK LIVES

Hamilton said the city has met with an ad hoc group that includes organizers from The Village three times and received the proposal just before the latest meeting on Monday. He said they would discuss the proposal at their next meeting in about two weeks.

Bee said Village members will continue building with or without the city’s sanction, noting that they are volunteer-driven and able to continue organically. However, if the city were inclined to help, Bee said it could offer financial support, like the $130,000 that was allocated for a city-sanctioned homeless encampment in the area of 35th and Peralta streets.

Village organizers have pledged to use any city funds given to them to pay for building supplies and wages for builders, intending to give construction jobs to area homeless people.

Bee said the group has reached out to area churches, mosques and synagogues for support; so far six churches have said they would work with them and donate space in their parking lots to house homeless people. Organizers are soliciting supplies and scheduling trainings for builders on Twitter.

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Village activists seek city support for building homeless encampments