In November of 2019, a group of us,—mothers and our children—those of us who would later become known as Moms 4 Housing, moved into a house on Magnolia Street in Oakland that had been vacant for two years. Our decision was a practical one—we needed a place to raise our children. Homelessness was taking an incalculable toll on our families. As Dominique Walker explained ,“You don’t fully realize the toll homelessness has on your family until you then can see your 18-month old son finally start walking or hear your daughter say she can now do homework when you finally do have a home.”
But moving into that house was also a political act, a protest against the ease with which elected officials have for so long ignored the growing number of people who live on the edge of homelessness. Oakland, like the rest of the Bay Area, has become outrageously expensive. Lifetime residents suddenly find themselves priced out by profit-seeking speculators. Oakland has over 15,000 vacant properties even as thousands are homeless. The Magnolia Street houses we moved into had been left intentionally vacant by Wedgewood Properties, a real-estate investment group, which purchases properties only to turn a profit and displaces families along the way.