“Mommy, what’s a Tuff Shed?”

Peter Brown is a Laney sculpture student and retired instructor. Here he is speaking at the Poor People’s Campaign Teach-in held at the Laney Student Center on Oct. 31.

by Peter Brown

With over 2,000 human beings living in our streets, the City of Oakland has started installing Tuff Sheds (pre-fab utility sheds) at several of the 200+ tent camps as a “temporary solution to the housing crisis.”

Some politicians are also touting “Tiny Homes” as a possible solution to the same housing crisis, and propose parking them in church parking lots.

Great ideas! Many people would be happy to have any kind of roof over their head rather than living outside unprotected. Also, Tiny Homes are a creative part of the “downsizing” movement; many youth interested in sustainability, engineering, design & construction are drawn to this anti-consumerism movement.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Oakland mayor poses in front of condos and Tuff Sheds, “Oakland Tuff” is a play on Libby Schaaf’s campaign slogan “Oakland Tough.” Comic by Michelle Snider, Editor-in-Chief, Laney Tower.

First, homelessness isn’t a “housing” problem; there’s no shortage of homes in Oakland. City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan documented 5,000 vacant housing units in Oakland. People have been evicted from homes, unable to earn enough with shrinking wages and skyrocketing rents created by artificial scarcity.

Second, Tuff Sheds are used by Oakland’s government to cover up their true plan to harass, evict and export people and families who have been evicted from existing homes in Oakland to make billionaires richer.

Actions speak louder than words; despite fine speeches, when the city puts up Tuff Sheds at a camp and they’re filled, anyone left over gets evicted. And there are never enough for everyone. Such actions show that Sheds are used as an eviction tool, and a tool to “normalize” homelessness, making it appear morally acceptable but doing nothing to end it. An Uber driver I know delivers riders to “The Sheds,” a new neighborhood in Oakland with barbed wire, cameras & curfews.

What could the City do to house all the people living outside? Whatever the reasons homes are sitting vacant, Oakland could use eminent domain laws to make them public and make them available, even employ. The homeless to rehabilitate housing. The city could even pass ordinances against keeping housing vacant to drive rents up; then, just as Jerry Brown did with “drug dealers,” the city could seize property from criminal investors who prey on the poor. Homeless leaders have already demanded the city use eminent domain; this can be fought for.

Is it likely mayor Libby Schaaf will do either of these or take any serious steps to end this rapidly growing suffering? The Schaaf regime has shown the same loyal dedication to billionaire investors that Jerry Brown did as mayor, and what else would she do?

Her main source of support are those investors and global corporations.

They pay her way, and pave her political path — they can also ruin it.

They won’t reward her for cutting into corporate profits to support workers they’ll never employ and have no use for…it will take a new force, a new kind of politics, a whole new kind of government to set this right. We the people are that new force. We can create a new kind of government where no one can be evicted from their home!

Peter Brown is a recently retired Laney instructor, and a member of the Laney College Poor People’s Campaign/Teach-in Committee.

This article originally appeared in The People’s Tribune.