moms 4 housing

Oakland House Ready to Serve as Transitional Home for Homeless Families

During the pandemic, the house got a much-needed face lift.

NBC Universal, Inc.

We have an update on a group of homeless moms in Oakland, who took a stand against a house-flipping company by taking over one of their vacant homes.

That group, known as Moms 4 Housing ultimately managed to work out a deal with an Oakland land trust, with plans to turn the house into a transitionary home for other homeless mothers.

During the pandemic, the house got a much-needed face lift and NBC Bay Area got a first look inside.

It's been three years in the making for Carroll Fife and Dominque Walker.

Back in 2019, Fife was a community organizer with a big idea. What would happen if three homeless moms and their kids broke the law and occupied an empty house in West Oakland owned by a real estate investment company known for flipping homes?

A group of working homeless mothers calling themselves Moms 4 Housing illegally occupy a vacant, corporate-owned home in West Oakland. The moms say it’s time to start a movement fighting back against rising homelessness, inequality, and corporate housing speculation in Oakland. With the aid of activists and community members, the moms make the first move in what would become a two-month struggle against a large Southern California home-flipping corporation.

“I remember I said, Look, y'all, I don't have any homes. I don't have any networks of people who can rent to y'all. I don't have anything. But if you trust me at the end of this, you'll have a place to stay,” said Oakland City Councilmember Carroll Fife.

The idea gave birth to a movement known as “Moms 4 Housing.” Hundreds rallied behind the moms, when the threat of eviction grew louder and louder by the day.

The moms find an eviction notice taped to the front door of the Magnolia Street home, igniting a weeks-long court battle that ends with a judge ruling they must leave. The story also travels back in time to explore Oakland’s roots as a city and the racist housing policies of our past that reverberate to this day.

Deputies eventually showed up to evict the moms. - but the homeowner - Wedgewood Inc. agreed to sell the home to the Oakland Community Land Trust. Then came the pandemic. But the work never stopped. Community organizer Carroll Fife became Oakland City Councilmember Fife and Dominique Walker now sits on Berkeley’s Rent Board. And the home will soon have new residents.

“The plan right now is to give formerly unsheltered moms an opportunity to have a space where they can just relax because homelessness is traumatizing. And to rebuild their lives,” Fife said.

When the moms defy a judge’s order to leave the house on Magnolia Street, deputies from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office launch a pre-dawn raid to enforce the eviction. The department’s controversial show of force includes armored vehicles and deputies armed with AR-15 rifles. The episode also explores a period of Oakland’s history when swaths of Black-owned homes were bulldozed in the name of redevelopment and how the Black Panther Party fought back.

One of the new residents is Bry’Ana, a mom to a toddler and currently studying to join the construction industry.

“So in order to make sure that our new mom had very little to do, we went out and got some pieces that we thought were essential to get her off to a new start,” Fife said.

What’s next for the movement? The moms said they want to expand – buy more vacant homes and give more unhoused families a chance to rebuild their lives.

The moms are out of the home, but that doesn’t spell the end for Moms 4 Housing. The Oakland Community Land Trust strikes a major deal with the home’s corporate owner, and the community organizer behind Moms 4 Housing sets her sights on a new target: City Hall. The story also dives into the foreclosure crisis and how it reshaped Oakland neighborhoods and signaled the rise in corporate homeownership.
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