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Members Of Moms 4 Housing Evicted From Vacant Bay Area Home

13 hours ago
Originally published on January 15, 2020 8:38 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A group of homeless women has been evicted in Oakland, Calif. The women and their kids have spent two months squatting in a vacant house to call attention to the Bay Area's housing and homelessness crisis. Molly Solomon from member station KQED reports.

MOLLY SOLOMON, BYLINE: The raid came before dawn. About 30 sheriff's deputies, including a half-dozen from the SWAT team, descended on the house on Magnolia Street.

(SOUNDBITE OF BANGING)

SOLOMON: Armed officers, some wearing combat fatigues, knocked down the front door before handcuffing two of the mothers, Tolani King and Misty Cross. Two activists supporting the women were also arrested. Outside, a small crowd of protesters shouted down the officers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you.

SOLOMON: The women, who call themselves Moms 4 Housing, moved into the two-story home with their children. Prior to that, they've been homeless and say the property had been vacant for years. Last Friday, a judge ordered their eviction. Dominique Walker is one of the mothers who had been living at the house but was not present at the time of the eviction. She's criticizing what she calls excessive response by officers in riot gear and armored vehicles.

DOMINIQUE WALKER: The sheriffs came in. They came in like an army for mothers and babies.

SOLOMON: Moms 4 Housing has gained support by appealing to a moral argument - that housing is a human right. The sheriff's department says the eviction went as well as could be expected. Sergeant Ray Kelly is the spokesperson for Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAY KELLY: There was a tremendous amount of work that went into this, and we had to think outside the box a little bit because this was not your typical eviction.

SOLOMON: The West Oakland home was purchased last year by Southern California-based real estate investment group Wedgewood Properties. It bought the house for just over half a million dollars at a foreclosure auction, and it's one of hundreds of properties the company owns in the Bay Area and across the state. Wedgwood says it plans to fix up the house and eventually place it back on the market. And despite the eviction, Moms 4 Housing and Dominique Walker say they'll keep fighting.

WALKER: This house was a statement. It was a symbol of what needs to happen in Oakland.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Make it (ph)...

WALKER: This was an absolute victory. We're still victorious.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: They in trouble...

WALKER: And we're going to keep it moving.

SOLOMON: Meanwhile, back on Magnolia Street, Wedgwood Properties has boarded up the doors and windows, surrounded the house with a chain-link fence and hired security to prevent activists from moving back in.

For NPR News, I'm Molly Solomon in Oakland.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAXON SHORE'S "SIDE BY SIDE IN THIS GENTLE DESCENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.