EBCLC and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights sent the Alameda County Board of Supervisors a cure and correct demand letter after failing to safely allow the public to participate in their Tuesday, March 17th meeting where the Board voted on a wide variety of issues.
“Local governments should be stopping all evictions during this global health crisis.”
EBCLC’s Director of Housing Practice, Meghan Gordon, discusses tenants rights amidst the pandemic with 94.1 KPFA’s UpFront radio show hosts.
In response to the growing pandemic, EBCLC joined 22 partnering organizations in urging Governor Newsom to issue an Executive Order placing an immediate moratorium on vehicle tows that are not a risk to public safety or criminal enforcement. Halting vehicle towing will slow the spread of COVID-19 by allowing essential service workers to safely transport to and from work such as hospitals and grocery stores, as well as ensure that those experiencing homelessness continue to take shelter in their vehicles and away from crowded encampments or shelters.
“The executive order that he issued … to address evictions did almost nothing, as far as we can tell, and basically said local jurisdictions you figure it out,” said Meghan Gordon, director of the housing team at East Bay Community Law Center. Tenants “need to be responding depending on which county they live in and whether those courts are open. He could’ve done something and he didn’t.”
“[The governor] punted responsibility to over-burdened counties and cities to deal with this problem themselves,” said Meghan Gordon, the director of housing law for the East Bay Community Law Center, “when in my opinion, they should be focusing on delivering emergency services to their citizens.”
“We are already in a housing crisis and now we have a housing crisis colliding with a public health crisis,” said Meghan Gordon, housing director of the East Bay Community Law Center, a nonprofit legal aid group in Oakland.
On Wednesday, at the Alameda County State Superior Courthouse in Hayward, Gordon was one of dozens of attorneys standing shoulder to shoulder in a hallway with nearly 100 tenants and landlords during the court’s Wednesday conference day, a mandatory mass meeting judges make renters and landlords attend to try to settle eviction lawsuits instead of taking them trial. Gordon said the daily operations of eviction courts in urban counties create exactly the kinds of mass gatherings which can spread contagious diseases.
“People are only given a short amount of time in which they have to move everything, and if they can’t, people lose everything,” said Osha Neumann, consulting attorney for the East Bay Community Law Center, who just helped win a $2 million settlement against the California Department of Transportation for destroying homeless folks’ property. (In 2019, I profiled Neumann’s work for the San Francisco Chronicle.) “People are simply cleaned out,” he said. “The day begins with them having what they need to survive, and they come back and don’t have a home.”
There is currently a class action lawsuit against Caltrans to prevent it from moving people and to get compensation for those who lost their belongings, according to Osha Neumann, an attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center. Neumann added that the insistence of the homeless community to stay in that area sparked the “Where do we go?” campaign in Berkeley.
During a recent presentation at Berkeley Law before a packed lecture hall, two leaders of this effort—Carroll Fife and Leah Simon-Weisberg—described the rewards and challenges involved. The event was moderated by Osha Neumann, a lawyer with the East Bay Community Law Center, whose work includes protecting the civil rights of homeless people.
We are committed to helping borrowers navigate the complexities of student loan debt because we know how it contributes to the racial wealth gap. And as the country reckons with the devastating consequences of Stop and Frisk, EBCLC is working to address the direct impact of racial profiling in today’s California by fighting fines and fees. I’m especially proud to do this work alongside our newest class of 49 law and social work students, who are here to learn how to take on oppressive systems with courage and creativity. Every day, these new advocates inspire me with the innovative ways they address historical injustices.
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