Photos: California moms on frontline of fight against homelessness

When Dominique Walker moved back from Mississippi to her native California last year, she planned to pursue a nursing degree while caring for her two small children. With nowhere to turn, and aware that she was on the verge of homelessness, Walker and several other mothers in the same predicament occupied a vacant house in Oakland in November, hoping to raise awareness in a bold, high-profile protest about an epidemic ripping communities apart.

Updated On Feb 10, 2020 05:39 PM IST 11 Photos
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Dominique Walker surveys a vacant home in Oakland, California. When Walker moved back from Mississippi to her native California last year, she planned to pursue a nursing degree while caring for her children. But she and other moms and their children ended up living as squatters in a bold protest against homelessness. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Dominique Walker surveys a vacant home in Oakland, California. When Walker moved back from Mississippi to her native California last year, she planned to pursue a nursing degree while caring for her children. But she and other moms and their children ended up living as squatters in a bold protest against homelessness. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 05:39 PM IST
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A community garden outside a homeless encampment.Today, Walker has come to symbolize a crisis that has reached historic proportions in one of America’s wealthiest states. She became a casualty of the housing crisis after moving back to Oakland to escape domestic violence. She initially stayed with family and in hotels while looking for housing but quickly realised she could not afford rental prices in the Bay Area. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

A community garden outside a homeless encampment.Today, Walker has come to symbolize a crisis that has reached historic proportions in one of America’s wealthiest states. She became a casualty of the housing crisis after moving back to Oakland to escape domestic violence. She initially stayed with family and in hotels while looking for housing but quickly realised she could not afford rental prices in the Bay Area. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 05:39 PM IST
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“There are programs to help but nothing worked,” Walker, who now works full time as a community outreach organizer for a tenants rights group, told AFP. “I tried different agencies and got no help. “In order to afford a two-bedroom house, you need to earn $40.88 an hour and the minimum wage is $14.14 an hour.” (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

“There are programs to help but nothing worked,” Walker, who now works full time as a community outreach organizer for a tenants rights group, told AFP. “I tried different agencies and got no help. “In order to afford a two-bedroom house, you need to earn $40.88 an hour and the minimum wage is $14.14 an hour.” (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 05:39 PM IST
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A newly erected fence blocks the front of a vacant home that Moms 4 Housing activists group that Waler is a part of, occupied. With nowhere to turn, and aware that she was on the verge of homelessness, Walker and several other mothers in the same predicament occupied this house in Oakland in November, hoping to raise awareness about an epidemic ripping communities apart. Their gamble worked. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

A newly erected fence blocks the front of a vacant home that Moms 4 Housing activists group that Waler is a part of, occupied. With nowhere to turn, and aware that she was on the verge of homelessness, Walker and several other mothers in the same predicament occupied this house in Oakland in November, hoping to raise awareness about an epidemic ripping communities apart. Their gamble worked. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 05:39 PM IST
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A locked fence blocks the entrance to ‘Moms House’, in Oakland.The group were evicted from the house last month but not before their initiative garnered national attention and prompted officials to vow to do more to address the issue. Walker lived there with her one-year-old son Amir and five-year-old daughter Aja. During the 58 days they and the other moms and kids lived in that house, little Amir took his first steps. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

A locked fence blocks the entrance to ‘Moms House’, in Oakland.The group were evicted from the house last month but not before their initiative garnered national attention and prompted officials to vow to do more to address the issue. Walker lived there with her one-year-old son Amir and five-year-old daughter Aja. During the 58 days they and the other moms and kids lived in that house, little Amir took his first steps. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

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The owner of the house, real estate investment group Wedgewood, eventually agreed to sell the property to a non-profit that acquires land and property for affordable housing. “The attention that our movement has gotten is indescribable,” Misty Cross (pictured), one of the mothers who occupied the house and now lives in a shelter while working as a caregiver, told AFP. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

The owner of the house, real estate investment group Wedgewood, eventually agreed to sell the property to a non-profit that acquires land and property for affordable housing. “The attention that our movement has gotten is indescribable,” Misty Cross (pictured), one of the mothers who occupied the house and now lives in a shelter while working as a caregiver, told AFP. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 05:39 PM IST
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“We didn’t see anyone trying to fight for the little people so we decided to step up and put our lives on the line to speak up for the ones that are not being spoken for,” Cross said. According to city officials, an estimated 4,071 people were living on the street, in shelters or in their cars in 2019 in Oakland, a 47% increase in two years. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

“We didn’t see anyone trying to fight for the little people so we decided to step up and put our lives on the line to speak up for the ones that are not being spoken for,” Cross said. According to city officials, an estimated 4,071 people were living on the street, in shelters or in their cars in 2019 in Oakland, a 47% increase in two years. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

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Activists, however, estimate the number is probably higher than 6,000, as many people sleep on someone’s couch or in a hotel and are not included in the official count. “Homelessness in Oakland has grown at a faster rate in the last few years than we’ve seen at any point in our history,” city council president Rebecca Kaplan, who has been working closely with Moms 4 Housing, told AFP. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Activists, however, estimate the number is probably higher than 6,000, as many people sleep on someone’s couch or in a hotel and are not included in the official count. “Homelessness in Oakland has grown at a faster rate in the last few years than we’ve seen at any point in our history,” city council president Rebecca Kaplan, who has been working closely with Moms 4 Housing, told AFP. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

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Carroll Fife walks outside a homeless encampment in Oakland. “We have reached a crisis point in the last two years,” Fife, a regional director with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, where Walker is employed, said to AFP. “It’s a combination of several issues that have just come together to create the perfect storm of unsustainable housing, lack of affordable housing.” (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Carroll Fife walks outside a homeless encampment in Oakland. “We have reached a crisis point in the last two years,” Fife, a regional director with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, where Walker is employed, said to AFP. “It’s a combination of several issues that have just come together to create the perfect storm of unsustainable housing, lack of affordable housing.” (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 05:39 PM IST
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Dominique Walker stands in front of a vacant home. Kaplan said the main reason is residents losing their home because of foreclosure, rising rents, and real estate speculators driving up prices. Compounding the problem is a boom in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley where thousands of jobs are being created with little affordable housing being built in the region to absorb the increased workforce. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Dominique Walker stands in front of a vacant home. Kaplan said the main reason is residents losing their home because of foreclosure, rising rents, and real estate speculators driving up prices. Compounding the problem is a boom in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley where thousands of jobs are being created with little affordable housing being built in the region to absorb the increased workforce. (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 05:39 PM IST
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Carroll Fife (R),talks with an insecurely housed resident of Oakland. Fife said that unless emergency measures to tackle the crisis and address housing as a human right are taken, more actions like the one by Moms 4 Housing will take place. “Our city, our state, our federal government can do more to end this,” she said, as she took AFP on a tour of the homeless encampments throughout the city. “If they wanted to, they could end it today.” (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Carroll Fife (R),talks with an insecurely housed resident of Oakland. Fife said that unless emergency measures to tackle the crisis and address housing as a human right are taken, more actions like the one by Moms 4 Housing will take place. “Our city, our state, our federal government can do more to end this,” she said, as she took AFP on a tour of the homeless encampments throughout the city. “If they wanted to, they could end it today.” (Philip Pacheco / AFP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 05:39 PM IST
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