Rent Is Too High: Oakland Is Struggling With A Housing Crisis. This Mom Led A Movement To Fix It
Carroll Fife, Mother’s 4 Housing Founder | Picture By Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle through Getty Photographs

Hometown Heroes is an ESSENCE print journal collection profiling changemakers in native communities who’re working towards financial and racial justice. | Images by Dana Lixenberg

Carroll Fife had no plans of operating for workplace. 4 years in the past, she was strategizing with a handful of Black moms in Oakland who discovered themselves confronted by armed deputies in riot gear. Fife had organized a small group—they known as themselves Mothers 4 Housing—and so they had occupied a vacant home owned by company investor Wedgewood Properties to protest flipping practices and unaffordable housing. A decide ordered their eviction on ­January 10, 2020 and officers from the Alameda County sheriff’s workplace arrived the next week, with AR-15s in tow and handguns drawn to hold out the eviction.

“It was worrying,” Fife recollects to ESSENCE. “Each single day it was a problem, as a result of we by no means knew when the sheriffs could be coming. The evening earlier than the eviction occurred, we had been debating who would tackle the media and who would keep in the home.”

Rent Is Too High: Oakland Is Struggling With A Housing Crisis. This Mom Led A Movement To Fix It
Fife (left) with fellow
activists Misty Cross and Dominique Walker.

Fife and one other Mothers 4 Housing cofounder, ­Dominique Walker, spoke to the press on eviction day. They needed to counter a story pushed by Wedgewood, which characterised the moms’ occupation as stealing. “Wedgewood has completed every thing since this group broke into the corporate’s property and took it over illegally,” the corporate’s spokesperson, Sam Singer, stated after the eviction. “That didn’t make them joyful.” 

“It wasn’t simply the opposition within the media,” Fife says now. “It was additionally individuals in Oakland who had been like, ‘You guys can’t be stealing from the neighborhood on this manner.’ However this house just isn’t owned by the neighborhood. It’s owned by a ­multimillion-dollar company.”   

Wedgewood had been known as a “displacement machine” by one housing advocate. The corporate had filed a whole lot of eviction instances within the Bay Space, in line with reporting from information outlet The Intercept.  

Occupying the house wasn’t merely in regards to the moms’ private housing insecurity. It represented the bigger drawback of housing being handled like a monetary device and never as a basic proper.   

The primary web page of the group’s web site notes that the ladies “tried working via the system… We work a number of jobs, and we nonetheless can’t afford a house for our kids. This technique doesn’t work for individuals. It solely works for banks and companies.”  

“They got here in like a military for moms and infants,” Walker informed information media when the mothers had been evicted. “That is just the start.”

It was certainly solely the start. Each Fife and Walker subsequently ran and had been elected to serve in native seats: Fife turned a Metropolis Councilmember, and Walker has since served on the Berkeley Lease Board. Each have used their time in workplace to advocate for reasonably priced housing.  

“If we simply look exterior, we will see the established order just isn’t working.”

—Carroll Fife

“Although I had by no means meant to run,” Fife says, “I requested the entire mothers who lived in West Oakland if they might run for workplace, and if they might run on the problems of housing and homelessness as the first platform.”  

Fife stepped up when everybody else declined. She had been an organizer in Oakland effectively earlier than forming Mothers 4 Housing, and younger individuals from the neighborhood urged her to hunt the Oakland Metropolis Council seat. “I used to be pushed by my youth, my infants. They had been like, ‘Mama Carroll, go ahead—we acquired you.’ And I used to be like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do it.’”  

She gained her election in November 2020, defeating her closest opponent, a two-term incumbent, by practically 20 share factors.   

Councilmember Fife was as soon as homeless herself, and the necessity for reasonably priced housing was a major function of her marketing campaign platform. “I’ve all the time been housing insecure since I’ve been in Oakland,” she says, despite the fact that she has served as knowledgeable nonprofit director. The concept for Mothers 4 Housing happened, Fife says, when 4 totally different ladies on her present and former workers confided to her that they, too, had been experiencing housing insecurity.   

“After the final girl who got here into my workplace to relaxation on my futon stated she tried to commit suicide as a result of she didn’t have a spot to remain, I introduced everyone again collectively,” she says, describing the origins of the group. “And I stated, ‘Pay attention, that is an excessive amount of for my coronary heart to bear. I don’t have individuals. I ain’t acquired no cash, however I understand how to prepare. And I’ve networks that may help us.’ That’s the place it began.”    

The moms finally reached a take care of Wedgewood Properties, and the corporate bought the house to a nonprofit in Could 2020. Now often known as “Mother’s Home,” the property is below the possession of the Oakland Group Land Belief and serves as transitional housing for different mothers and their kids.

Rent Is Too High: Oakland Is Struggling With A Housing Crisis. This Mom Led A Movement To Fix It
An indication left on the steps of “Mother’s Home” in Oakland.

Mothers 4 Housing continues to prepare moms in Oakland, “with the final word aim of reclaiming housing for the neighborhood from speculators and profiteers,” in line with the group’s web site.  

Fife reinforces that message as a member of Oakland Metropolis Council’s District 3. “Homelessness is ridiculously excessive in each city middle within the nation proper now,” she asserts. “And it’s as a result of we see housing as a commodity, versus as a necessity. And my imaginative and prescient is that we have to change that.” 

On her marketing campaign web site, Councilmember Fife lists her coverage priorities, which embody a press release that housing needs to be a human proper. What does that seem like?   

“It signifies that each single one who is a resident of this nation would have a secure place to name house,” she says. “They wouldn’t have to fret about eviction, foreclosures or any of the circumstances related to housing insecurity. We might ensure that buildings had been saved up. We might ensure that whether or not or not you had been an elder or a university pupil or an individual with disabilities, you had a spot to remain.”  

“If we simply look exterior, we will see the established order just isn’t working,” Fife provides. “In truth, it’s consuming us alive. It’s a disaster—and if we don’t get it below management, we are going to all be crushed below the load of it, and I refuse to permit that to occur. However we should educate on a regular basis individuals about their energy to make change—and that’s what I’m making an attempt to do.” 

A model of this story seems within the Jan/Feb 2024 print difficulty of ESSENCE


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