Going strong for about five years, Love and Justice in the Streets is an all volunteer run organization that was created as a means to amplify voices and immediately support unsheltered people living in Oakland’s streets. Founder and lead organizer Talya Husbands-Hankin sees the issue of homelessness in Oakland as an “absolute human rights violation.”
What is the state of homelessness in Oakland? Listen:
Love and Justice does their work in three different ways. The first is through the direct redistribution of resources. Since the organization has no overhead costs, all monetary support and supplies go straight into curbside communities and encampments. The second way is by providing support during encampment evictions in which the organization serves as a buffer between police and residents and documents the whole process.
One vital piece of their advocacy is policy change that works to hold the City of Oakland and County of Alameda accountable for the lack of resources and support for the unhoused. Lastly, the organization seeks to build relationships with encampment communities by working in partnership with The East Oakland Collective and The Village Oakland to further deepen its advocacy. (Related: Read more about The Village Oakland in Oakland Voices’ interview with leader Needa Bee).
Pre-COVID 19, the Love and Justice leadership team would make daily visits to encampments to distribute resources while connecting with those in the community to learn about what is happening. Since many unhoused residents cannot leave their belongings due to the constant threat of theft and proper way secure their belongings, the organization serves as a liaison to city.
What makes this work fulfilling? Listen:
In 2018, The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Leilani Farha came to visit Oakland. Love and Justice’s Husbands-Hankin, In 2018, The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Leilani Farha came to visit Oakland. Love and Justice’s Husbands-Hankin, The Village Oakland’s founder Needa Bee and the East Oakland Collective’s founder and CEO Candice Elder took Farha to visit many of the encampments. In her special report, Farha cited Oakland for being “cruel and inhumane” in the way it treats its unsheltered people.
“Bringing the United Nations Special Rapporteur to Oakland to see the human rights violations was a really important moment in terms of really exposing what’s going on on a systemic level and really shining a light on injustice,” Husbands-Hankin said.
An Oakland encampment sweep. Photo by Talya Husbands-Hankin.
Oakland’s unhoused have shown incredible mobilization and resistance efforts by filing lawsuits against the city and refusing to move during eviction sweeps. Love and Justice has also worked with City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas from the city council to get a policy passed that calls for an independent performance and financial audit of the City’s Encampment Management program which seeks to reduce and end homlessness.
Post COVID-19, the scope of Husbands-Hankin’s work has drastically changed. As someone who is both immunocompromised and disabled, she is no longer able to work on the ground. Much of her time is now spent coordinating fundraising efforts, advocacy, media and policy work as well as responding to requests from encampments from her apartment. Vera Sloan, another key organizer of Love and Justice has been doing much of the organization’s frontline outreach during this time.
Love and Justice in the Streets is heavily involved with the state-wide NoVacancy CA coalition that is pushing for immediate emergency shelter for Oakland’s unhoused. They have ramping up their calls to action by mobilizing the community to put pressure on city leadership.The organization has been working diligently to uplift this harsh reality on the city, county and state level for the government to do what is needed in order to save people’s lives.
Some of the most difficult challenges have been meeting the need for critical supplies as housed residents continue to hoard and bulk buy products. There are a lot less donations coming in to encampments as many volunteers, church groups and other efforts have scaled back due to COVID-19. Essential businesses, such as laundromats that are relied on, not only to wash clothes but also as a source of electricity, have greatly impacted the day to day of encampments. “There is a huge impact on people’s daily experiences right now and ability to access survival needs,” Husbands-Hankin said.
What have been some of the challenges? Listen:
Mayor Schaaf and her current administration have shown minimal action in protecting the most vulnerable populations. “We have seen community groups like ourselves that are stepping up to fill this void but we don’t have the capacity to do it on the scale that is needed for the thousands of people who are currently in life or death situations,” she Husbands-Hankin.
Love and Justice has reached out countless times asking for joint meetings with other community partners and advocates at both the city and county level all of which have gone nowhere. “There are a lot of excuses and bureaucracy which is really unacceptable.” Husbands-Hankin is concerned that the housed public is not really getting the full story of what is really going on on the ground. It is vital that the most vulnerable have access to safety in emergency shelter hotel rooms). “What COVID-19 shows us is that we are all connected, so if we don’t take care of the most vulnerable, everyone will be impacted.”
+ + +
To donate to the Fill Hotels, Not Graves fundraising campaign, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/hotels-not-graves. You can also donate to their rapid response fund here. If you want to buy specific supplies such as tents, sleeping bags, and air mattresses for the unhoused from their Target Wishlist, click here. To keep up with Love and Justice’s actions and how you can get involved, please visit Take Action Now or follow them on social media at: IG @loveandjusticeinthestreets and Twitter @LJIS_Oakland.