Last week, the United Nations (UN) called out Oakland government for human rights violations. The city’s lack of response to the homelessness crisis is now an international issue.
This is a terrible stain on our city. Oakland has a long overdue, long ignored need for transformational change.
Our status quo is horrifying, both when compared to conditions in other American cities and in comparison, to the pain and poverty afflicting communities worldwide.
UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha visited the Bay Area as part of a global tour of homeless camps. She stated, “I’ve seen squalor, I’ve seen homelessness in countries around the world, I’ve seen really horrific things. And I saw all of that in Oakland, but I also witnessed a cruelty there that might be unparalleled.”
Farha’s UN report specifically said Oakland’s policies affecting the homeless are cruel and inhumane: “Attempting to discourage residents from remaining in informal settlements or encampments by denying access to water, sanitation, and health services and other basic necessities, as has been witnessed by the Special Rapporteur in San Francisco and Oakland, California, United States of America, constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment and is a violation of multiple human rights, including the rights to life, housing, health and water and sanitation.”
I am deeply saddened that Oakland’s treatment of our unhoused family, friends and neighbors is so cruel and inhumane that it is being called out on the international stage. I am equally troubled that Oakland’s current administration has altogether failed to acknowledge – let alone respond transparently or publicly – to the UN’s report.
In doing so, Oakland’s government is sending the message that our unhoused friends are simply invisible.
As your Mayor, I cannot allow this cruelty to continue.
We will respond with relentless urgency, compassion and respect for our unhoused residents. We will provide sanitation, access to water, health and safety services. We will prioritize the development and expansion of housing options.
We will direct emergency services to connect people in encampments with comprehensive wrap-around services, including physical and mental health services. We will take aggressive action to stem the flow of displacement by increasing flexible temporary financial assistance.
We will oppose illegal evictions and improve access to safety net and emergency services for people on the verge of homelessness. We will lead with resourcefulness and invite collaboration from all corners of our community.
We will hold close the core value that people’s lived experiences must inform our solutions.
Together, we can and must do better. Join us in the movement to save the soul of our city.
Vote for me – and utilize all three of your rank-choice votes – next Tuesday, Nov. 6.
This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post.