Last week, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to add grievous new provisions to a city law that strips tenants’ rights on the mere suspicion of certain illegal activities. At a time when gentrification and soaring housing costs mean Oakland tenants are in dire need of more protections, the city is taking rights away from some of its most vulnerable residents.
While Transgender Law Center is opposed to the War on Drugs and laws that criminalize and stigmatize sex work, Oakland’s new policy is particularly appalling. Landlords are allowed to evict tenants for suspicion of simple drug possession or of engaging in sex work, regardless of where. No criminal conviction is required, so tenants are robbed of the additional procedural protections intended for criminal defendants. If a landlord refuses to evict the tenant under these provisions, the city can step in and force the eviction.
This is an issue that affects the trans, gay, lesbian and bisexual communities. Given that a high rate of the most vulnerable in our communities report histories of sex work, whether by choice or because of hardship caused by pervasive discrimination or family rejection, or some combination of these. We know that trans women, and especially trans women of color, are singled out and profiled as sex workers even when they are not. Numerous studies have shown that a significant percentage of our communities turn to substances to cope or street economies such as the drug trade to survive. Finally, we know that our communities experience a higher rate of homelessness than the general population and that this ordinance will only lead to more homeless people of all genders and identities in Oakland.
If you’re an Oakland resident, you can speak out against this egregious law at the next City Council Meeting on Wednesday, November 5th at 6pm on the third floor of City Hall. You can also look up your Council Member and contact them directly here.
Click here to read more about the ordinance on Red Light Legal’s website.