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Income Residents Thrive at ‘Homefulness,’ An East Oakland Affordable-Housing Hub That Does Things a Bit Differently

December 15, 2016

By Laura Newberry : eastbayexpress excerpt

Financed by POOR Magazine, those who live at Homefulness don’t pay rent.

Lisa Gray-Garcia was barely a teenager when she and her mom first parked their car outside a narrow lot in East Oakland. On that patch of land sat a dingy duplex, sandwiched between a motel and two apartment buildings. The mom and daughter wagered that this was a safe place to stay for the night. In Berkeley, police often told them to move along, even issuing them citations for sleeping in a car. But in the poorest and most crime-ridden parts of Oakland — in this case, Eastmont — she says cops had other things to worry about…

Eventually, Gray-Garcia — who goes by “Tiny” — founded POOR Magazine, in 1996, with her mother, Dee. And, either by coincidence or fate, that patch of land in East Oakland has played a crucial role in her adult life: She and her 13-year-old son, as well as two other families, now actually live in the renovated and expanded duplex.

And if all goes as planned, no one will ever have to move out.

What brought them there was “Homefulness,” a co-housing project built by poor people, for poor people, and without help from government programs or charities. Gray-Garcia refers to Homefulness’ growing, quasi-village environment as a “de-gentrification zone” and a solution for people ending up on the streets because of displacement and the rising cost of living. Each family pays their share for utilities, insurance, and general upkeep. But no one pays rent…

‘We Come From Struggle, Too’

Homefulness is a longstanding project under the umbrella of POOR, and was first conceived when Gray-Garcia and her mother released volume one of the magazine in 1996. The issue culminated with their solution to homelessness, a vision of land liberation aptly named “homefulness.”

The concept was made real through donations, which are given directly to the magazine, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The organization has a separate bank account for Homefulness, Gray-Garcia said, and the donations come primarily from what she calls their “solidarity family” — sympathetic adults with race and class privilege, or formal education, who want to help… (more)

This is a great story. So good to hear that people are finding solutions that work and making them happen. I am happy to share this.

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