The Greatest Lesson I’ve Learned Out Here

by Freeway

A former resident of the Wood Street tent community, which the city of Oakland swept last year, muses about events surrounding the eviction.

We’re finishing up the park clean-up today. This event was quickly pulled together because some neighbors bonded together to try to demonize us, particularly the people in those condos across the street. They are in some glorified hate groups. They even complained about the sawdust from the wood art my husband creates! 

We’ll be doing this again. The city hasn’t responded to appeals for help. just in the works to get a contract with a company for trash removal. Carroll Fife, the Oakland council member and founding member of Moms 4 Housing, has a community organization that comes to the camps to help with cleaning, rather than the Department of Public Works destroying and stealing property. This poster hanging came as a result of some people who just wanted us out of sight. I’ve learned so much living out here. There’s no college course that could have taught me what I learned. 

The greatest lesson I’ve learned out here is gratitude. The bad things are something to be grateful for too, because they grant us a point of reference to compare. 

We had to deal with some tragic losses. I’ve come to the reality that people are complaining because they feel uncomfortable. Your comfort should not come at the expense of my safety. It’s no different than the racism of the 1950s. They even complain about the people who feed our children! 

We did a bike ride to Sacramento to get the government to push through some good legislation. The East Bay Community Law Center is working with us, trying to put together proposals to help the situation, not continue to traumatize us. 

There was an established community on Wood Street, and they dispersed us. I was in one of the tiny cabins they set up for some of us, but I got assaulted there, with no help, then I was back out on the street. They showed up and said, “We only have a place in East Oakland,” but I would have to move without my husband. There are no shelters for clean and sober living, so shelters are no answer for people trying to avoid drugs. People are traumatized over and over again. We have no access to resources or services. It’s a wonder people are as peaceful as they are and not burning the city down! 

All these sweeps and evictions cost the city $100,000 a day, minimum. They had just about every cop in the department down there. The City of Oakland has been given $34 million to “deal with” us. The cops and poverty pimps are getting it all. The director of the cabins project drives a Maserati to the site, but he’s notorious for saying “We don’t have money for this or that” to help the people.

Originally published in the People’s Tribune December 2023 edition.