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Protesters Make Stand Against Eviction Of Homeless Oakland Mothers

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- A large group of people gathered at a West Oakland home on Monday to support homeless mothers who occupied the home nearly two months ago but now face eviction because a judge ruled they have no valid claim of possession.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Department warned a group of homeless mothers illegally occupying an Oakland home Monday that deputies would be carrying out their court-ordered eviction sometime this week.

Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly issued a statement Monday asking the women to leave the home peacefully.

"The Sheriff's Office will be enforcing the eviction order as mandated by the court," the statement read. "We have reached out to Moms 4 Housing to provide resources and come to a non-confrontational resolution. They have declined our offers. We will continue to try and hope they vacate the home as ordered by the court."

Southern California-based real estate investment firm Wedgewood Properties bought the house, which had been vacant for two years, for $501,078 at a foreclosure hearing on July 31.

Carroll Fife, the director of Oakland Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, has been working with Moms 4 Housing. She said that was not the case.

"They have not talked to anyone," said Fife. "We've actually had representatives, legal representatives, reach out to the sheriff's [department] to negotiate a peaceful transition from the home and they refused."

Referring to vacant houses that are bought and then re-sold, Fife alleged that multi-million corporations such as Wedgewood "are making profits off of what shouldn't be a commodity."

Homeless advocates who were supporting the moms surrounded the home for a protest and were promising a confrontation with deputies.

Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan said the city is trying to buy vacant buildings to make them affordable and to prevent developers from acquiring them.

"The Permanent Ability Fund, which is a fund to acquire properties for this exact purpose, to keep them affordable for the community. So we did set money aside for that in our June budget," said Kaplan.

She said homelessness in Oakland has increased 47 percent since 2017 in part because of soaring home prices.

"We will fight against predatory foreclosures and wrongful evictions that are displacing our community and causing more people to become homeless," Kaplan said.

A lot of the people gathered for the protest said they would like to see the property be sold to the Oakland Community Land Trust. That way, Wedgewood Properties would get their money back and the city could ensure that the house remains affordable.

On Saturday, Wedgewood Properties offered to pay Catholic Charities of the East Bay to move them out and shelter them for the next two months.

One of the homeless mothers -- Dominique Walker -- scoffed at the offer, calling it "an insult."

"It is deeply disingenuous for this multi-million-dollar corporation, through their multi-million-dollar public relations firm, to pretend to be concerned about the well being of black families," Walker said. "Wedgewood CEO Greg Geiser is desperate to avoid taking responsibility for how this company has contributed to the housing crisis that is causing families like mine to be homeless and for participating in an industry that has robbed Black and marginalized communities of land and wealth for generations."

Walker moved into the home at 2928 Magnolia St. on Nov. 18 along with her two children, who are one and four years old. She said her youngest child took her first steps as they were working on fixing up the house, which had been vacant for some time.

She was later joined by Sameerah Karim, Leena Graves, Jesse Turner, Angela Shannon, and Denise Bambauer and formed a group called Moms 4 Housing.

Wedgewood obtained an eviction order for the women on Dec. 17, but that was delayed by several court filings. The company bought the house, which had been vacant for two years, for $501,078, at a foreclosure hearing on July 31.

On Friday, Alameda Superior Court Judge Patrick McKinney ruled in Wedgewood's favor and ordered deputies to remove the women within 5 business days.

In his ruling, Judge McKinney wrote: "The court considered, and denied, Ms. (Dominique) Walker's request to proffer testimony through expert witnesses concerning federal and international legal authorities regarding the right to housing. The court recognizes the importance of these issues but, as raised in connection with Ms. Walker's claim of right to possession, finds that they are outside the scope of this proceeding."

"After consideration of the evidence submitted and the arguments of counsel, the court finds that claimant has no valid claim of possession to the subject property."

Kelly said the sheriff's office has asked Oakland elected officials to try to convince the women to leave peacefully and some officials have agreed to do so, but he said he's not optimistic the officials will be successful.

Wedgewood plans to renovate the home and sell it to first-time homebuyers, Singer said.

"We want to buy this home through the Oakland Community Land , but Wedgewood would rather see our kids be in shelters or worse," said in her statement Saturday night. "We have seen corporations with on their hands try to buy public favor and this is an example. Their ' is an insult."

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