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Kehilla Adds Its Voice to Humanely Support Unhoused People

Homelessness is a class and racial justice issue. 70% of the homeless individuals in Oakland are black and 38% report having at least one disabling condition.  On October 20, 2020, more than 100 people spoke at the Oakland City Council meeting in opposition to the new City Encampment Management Policy that would affect the thousands of unhoused people in Oakland – read our summary here. Many others wrote e-comments or sent letters opposing the policy, including Kehilla as a congregation. Kehilla’s Economic Justice Committee and Homeless Action subcommittee contacted City Council members during the weeks leading to the vote and spoke at the City Council meeting where the new policy was discussed. Several members were on the Zoom call for the full 10 hours,

This policy is based on moving encampments out of “high sensitivity” areas. Unfortunately, many homeless encampments are in areas that would be considered “high sensitivity” by this policy. Yet, there are no clear guidelines as to where the encampment residents could go, nor any assurance that these closures would be done without severely disrupting the lives of unhoused people – the very community members who were not consulted in drafting the new policy.

The opposition demanded that the EMP policy be sent back to committee for revisions that would provide adequate alternatives in this time of COVID.

Please read the following links:

KCS letter to the City Council

Bay Area Legal Aid letter to the City Council letter to the City Council

Concerning the homeless encampment policy proposal – Marc Sapir

Talya Husbands-Hankin, founder of Love and Justice in the Streets and member of the Kehilla Homeless Action Committee, worked intensively with Council members behind the scenes, orchestrating calls, emails, and letters to all Council members, in coordination with a broad coalition opposing the EMP, including encampment leaders and street-based support organizations.

Unfortunately, the Council voted unanimously to pass the proposal with some minor revisions. The outcome that day was devastating to those who voiced opposition and, of course, to the unsheltered people who will be adversely impacted. We were counting on the “no” votes of Councilmember Bas and possibly of Dan Kalb, Rebecca Kaplan, and Noel Gallo. Read Councilmember Bas’ explanation of her surprise “yes” vote and the Oaklandside newspaper’s report on the meeting.

This will be an ongoing fight.

How You Can Help:

  1. If you want to join us in this struggle, contact Homeless Action chair, Sue Greenwald.
  2. Please consider a monetary donation to Love and Justice in the Streets. Your donation will provide concrete support for unhoused people such as tents, blankets, and meals.
  3. We have received significant donations of clothing, coats, shoes, and personal care items. Please contact Dvora Gordon if you can assist with sorting items at Kehilla. We also need volunteers with vehicles to make pre-arranged deliveries to homeless encampments.
  4. If you are a knitter and want to make hats and scarves, please contact Sue Greenwald.
Sue Greenwald in action at Kehilla - sorting donations for the homeless
Sue Greenwald in action at Kehilla

[1] The most recent point-in-time count and survey took place on January 30, 2019 and estimated that there were 4,071 homeless people in Oakland that night, of whom 861 were sheltered and 3,210 unsheltered.  Undoubtedly the number of people currently unhoused is far larger.


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