For the past several weeks, a group of homeless mothers and their children have been residing in a formerly-vacant home in West Oakland. A large investment corporation, with a troubling history of questionable evictions, is seeking to evict the women.
The case is pending in court, and the corporation has hired a controversial spokesperson, Sam Singer, to create a public relations response for them. The company has now chosen to claim that they wish to work with a non-profit to use the house to benefit at-risk youth through jobs rehabbing houses, and have blamed the homeless moms for causing delay in the launch of this alleged program they claim they would be launching if they kicked the moms out of the house.
Unfortunately, the specific organization that Wedgewood named appears to have no office or personnel anywhere in this region, no local business license, and no track record that can be found performing this type of work.
In addition, there is no evidence that Wedgewood is serious about launching this alleged program to employ low-income youth renovating houses. As such, for a program to be real would require staff and would obviously require more than one house to be viable.
Wedgewood owns and buys hundreds of houses. Yet, thus far, they have not offered any of their other properties into the program they claim to be launching. Wedgewood has stated they would then sell the house, and send a portion of the proceeds to groups in Los Angeles, leaving no benefit to the local community.
Luckily, there is a viable, licensed, local non-profit that is located in Oakland and does actually have the capacity to respond — and they have offered to Wedgewood to buy the house from them. The Oakland Community Land Trust (OCLT), which has experience acquiring, rehabbing, and otherwise handling houses, including those needing renovations, providing them as affordable housing for lower-income residents in our community.
Council President Rebecca Kaplan continues to urge Wedgewood Corporation, as she did in a letter back in Dec. 2019, to sit down with the OCLT and seek to work out a mutually beneficial situation which allows Wedgewood to get paid for their property and end the situation of strife and negativity.
Kaplan is also seeking other property owners who are willing to sell their properties to help, and work with the OCLT.
At a time when homelessness has increased 47 percent in Oakland since 2017, in part because of soaring housing prices, we need to work in partnership with multiple stakeholders to resolve this crisis.
Anyone interested in selling or donating a house for such a use, should contact the Oakland Land Trust at (510) 463-2887.
Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan is an honor graduate from MIT and was elected in 2008 to serve as Oakland’s citywide Councilmember, she was re-elected in 2016. She also serves on the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC).