Re: Article: Homeless Oaklanders were tired of the housing crisis. So they built a ‘miracle’ village

Mimi German

Hi, Elise. Thank you for inquiring.

When we first set up, we were on Parks land. The Housing Bureau came out to tell us that this was their land. The goat people told us it was their land. The Housing Bureau told us they'd have us arrested for trespass if we stayed. We told them that folks are considered trespassing no matter what land houseless are living on. And we let them know that because there's nowhere to go, we aren't going anywhere. She explained the deal that the HB had struck w/ the city which was that they purchased the land from the City. We asked to see the contract because the land wasn't listed as HB land. Days later, the maps changed to HB land or some such thing. HB told us that they were going to put up the low-income or affordable housing units and that's when we told them that when that happens and the trucks are there and ready to dig, we'd move. Weeks later, the fence contractor came in to let us know, about the impending sweep and fence set-up.

So, yes. To your questions.
Are there any activist efforts to fight the eviction that we can help with? Letters? Calls? Petitions? Protests/other actions? Upcoming hearings about the site?
We are trying to contact as many groups as possible for eviction defense. I think it's important to get lists of folks ready to act/support as soon as a warning is posted and we don't when that will be. What I do know is that folks are not leaving the site because they are tired of being swept with nowhere to go.

Letters: It would be great to have details from the HB as to when those trucks are truly coming in so that if the folks at the site do want to leave, we can plan for that for a specified time. We'd also like letters to the HB telling them not to arrest us for trespass since there is no dig happening.

Yes and yes. Calls to the HB and calls to the County and City Council to allow us to stay at least until the dig and then once the dig occurs, creating a safe sweepless space for us on the cut or in St Johns, for us to carry on with our tarpee village.

Absolutely. We did tell the HB that if a fence was dropped, we'd have a recurrence of protest in support of our houseless friends, at the site. I reminded them of last years protests and our feelings about protecting houseless people from sweeps. We are putting together support for protests and need all the help we can get. Again, as soon as a trespass or eviction notice goes up, we begin.

We need $ for tarpee materials.  Also need carpet ends for folks for future tarpees and/or marmoleum for the floors.

We have a cashapp which is $JBLcommunity.

Folks are doing ok on food. We do need lots of water.

Mostly, need folks to come by to see where it is so they can come when we need them there for support. You can get to the site via N. Macrum (off of Lombard) then one block to Oberlin. Oberlin dead-ends at the Cut. Walk into the trail and folks will see the tarpee village to the left. It's on the S. side of the Peninsula Crossing Trail aka The Cut.

We also need people who can help us build tarpees. Folks w/ some experience w/ carpentry is best. We do the builds in the Alameda area. Our build team is small and everyone has lives, so the builds take a long time. If we have more people who can put some time in, we can build these very quickly. We basically have these on templates now.

Could also use some therapists for folks, not social workers.  It's been a request.

TO ALL INTERESTED in lending a hand in some way or another, thank you so very much.


On Thu, May 13, 2021 at 11:06 AM Elise Aymer <elise@...> wrote:
Hi Mimi,

I understood from your post that the immediate peril for the village will be the city's "clean up" sweep that could come at any time. 

- Are there any activist efforts to fight the eviction that we can help with? Letters? Calls? Petitions? Protests/other actions? Upcoming hearings about the site?

- Does the village need financial support or donations of food or other goods? Is there anything like a GoFundMe to which we could contribute?

I am asking as not everyone on this list is local and not all of us are able to get out to the village for a tour or to be active on-site alongside the residents but may still want to help. 


On Wed, May 12, 2021 at 9:18 AM Mimi German <mirgerman0000@...> wrote:
Before explaining the tarpee village in St Johns, I'd like to tell you about Jason Barns Landing which is the name of the tarpee village.

Jason Barns was a houseless person in St Johns. I met him about 5 years ago freezing in the icy rain at Safeway. I got him clothes from truck and helped him change out of his wet pants and shirt. He had plastic bags on his feet instead of socks because he had no socks. We became very close that year, and I made sure, as did others, to know where Jason was sleeping on the street and make sure he was alive. He was one of our most vulnerable on our streets. He came to one day, in tears, pleading w/ me to build a village for him and his street family. He knew he'd die on the streets if they didn't have a village. I brought him w/ me to talk to Wheeler---we both knew Wheeler would lie to him, but there's something about being able to speak truth to power anyway. The story around that is long and I won't delve into it here other than to say that of course, Wheeler lied.  Jason died on Willamette Blvd just before Thanksgiving in 2018 while canning. The unhoused community that I am a part of as their advocate, made a commitment to follow through on a village in memory of Jason. While we had tried to "follow the rules" while Jason was alive, we didn't succeed. Soon after, Jason Barns Landing became a reality.

Not very updated FB page of JBL:

JBL, as it's known to us, was a self-determined village put up w/ the help of others like myself who know that the city process kills houseless people while it slugs its way through bureaucracy. Folks on the street don't have time to wait. Waiting is a luxury only the wealthy can live through. The initial JBL village was put up on the north side of the Peninsula Trail at Columbia. We had 2 toilets bought and pre-paid by a business owner in St Johns, for a year! But Nick Fish had the toilet company remove them. So we got them again. Nick Fish had them removed. Again. Nick Fish sent out the goon squad of Park Rangers and Cops on a weekly basis to threaten our women (and men), assault our Black female resident with racial epithets, and threaten all of us w/ jail time. Weekly. We lasted for 9 months even throughout all of this. By winter we decided due to the daily harassment by the city, we should disband for a bit and come together again in the future.

That time has come. After sweep after sweep, our friends from JBL and others on the Cut, have had enough. They asked for another village, especially since they were lied to about the St Johns Village that's across the street from the SJCC. That village was never for us. We all knew that. For years, we've known that.

Enter the tarpees. We spoke to a man who's part of the Salish tribes in WA who designed tarpees for Standing Rock. After many zoom mtgs w/ him over the pandemic timeline, he gave us his blessing to use his design for BIPOC unhoused people and also anyone who is unhoused and not BIPOC. My friends on the streets in SJ are fed up w/ sweeps. Absolutely fed up. So we set up on an unused piece of land on the Cut next to the spot where they recently were swept into...from the North side, back to the South side. As it turns out, although the plot of land was Parks land when we set up, it's now the Housing Bureau's land, supposedly allocated to a new build for low-income housing. On day 1 of the tarpee build when we installed 2 tarpees, the HB came out to tell us we were trespassing. We informed them that no matter where houseless people are, they are trespassing, according to the city. So what? We also told them that if it's true that this low-income housing is going to go up  for folks who are BIPOC and were gentrified out of PDX, that we'd leave when the trucks came to begin the dig, but not before that. It could take years before the actual dig occurs.

Yesterday, we put up the 4th tarpee. The folks occupying the tarpees are like new people! Their sense of self-worth is back. They can stand inside the tall tarpee. They have built in beds and a built in table. They are beautiful. And we can move them when or if we have to. The fence company came yesterday to line out where the huge fence will be put up. The guy told us that a sweep will happen in the next 2 weeks sometime. We are not leaving. This is why we need support. The notion that sweeping people is a way to "handle" the "situation" is not tenable for unhoused people. In this case, it's the Housing Bureau unhousing unhoused people and as we told them on day 1, we aren't leaving until the trucks come to do the dig. This can buy us a lot of time which means more stability for folks in the village.

As of now, we have a doctor on board for our folks in JBL. He's a friend of mine and he is now the doctor on call for our people. We are connecting people to services they are in need of, as they ask for services they want.

The tarpee team and JBL need your support now to help us stay put until the dig happens. No one knows when that day will come.

Please reach out to me if you want to help. I'd love to take you around to meet folks at the camp.
My number is 503-453-9005. Call or text. Or email. Just a heads up...I dislike communicating by text at length. I prefer to speak on the phone. Old school. I'm 57.

With love and hope of support...


On Tue, May 11, 2021 at 7:10 PM Sharron Fuchs <sharronfuchs@...> wrote:
Could you please explain the Tarpee Village? 


On May 11, 2021, at 7:03 PM, Mimi German <mirgerman0000@...> wrote:

Would anyone want to help us with our Tarpee Village in St Johns? 

On May 11, 2021, at 2:13 PM, Jim Krauel <jimmykrauel@...> wrote:

On Tue, May 11, 2021 at 5:55 AM Tim McCormick <tmccormick@...> wrote:
I love and have been following group behind this project Cob on Wood. Also  love how it connects to Portland where many people are intrigued by and have explored similar cob building methods. (traditional methods of mixed straw, mud, sand construction, often employing rounded and hand-molded forms, to create highly insulating, fire-safe, strong, inexpensive structures. 

The City of Portland has been exceptionally accommodating in allowing cob building in city code, fairly uniquely among US cities as far  as I understand. 

There are cob structures in various places around town, such as a seating/hut area at Portland State University near the corner of one building on the East edge of Park Blocks. 

I used to live just a few blocks away from the location of this "miracle village" in West Oakland -- which for those unfamiliar is a distinct area and city council district near NW corner of Oakland, to the west of downtown Oakland, that includes where the Bay Bridge and BART train tunnels connect San Francisco to the East Bay. (or, connect the West Bay to Oakland, as Oaklanders often prefer to say). As well as major port and military logistics operations, and container cranes (key local icon).

Overall it is a quite amazing environment -- Oaklandish! as a local civic group and culture/apparel brand's name says --  with heavy industry mixed with old residential, easy hop one stop on BART train to downtown San Francisco, and a kind of widespread laboratory of living and building approaches. It's tragic and wounded, in ways, such as West Oakland being entirely redlined and blight-designated for many decades, from which it is just now recovering; the huge scale of homelessness, and terrible conditions a lot of people are in; and the widespread displacement of poorer and minority populations occurring in last 10-15 years. 

At the same time, as this article highlights one case of, it's also long been a very creative, generative, even joyous and liberatory environment where all kinds of wide-ranging social and living, progressive  exploration occurs, and has for 150+ years. West Oakland had a well-established major Black community back to the late 19thC, became an important national center of Black society, culture, communication because it was the endpoint of the Transcontinental railroad, and home base for the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a key Black institution. Many of these porters were able to save money and buy homes in West Oakland, one of the relatively few urban areas in the country where that was possible, and this helped seed generations of Black community and enterprise there.. 

West Oakland was a key founding center and base for the Black Panther Party, and other extraordinary social organizing movements. Including more recently the Moms 4 Housing occupation & organizing for housing rights, which began with occupation of a vacant, investor-owned house on Magnolia Street under 2 blocks from where I lived.

Apologies for my effusion -- the area around the village featured in Guardian article means a lot of time, gives me a lot of ongoing inspiration and food for thought though I haven't been there in person for 2.5 years. I am currently putting together an essay / chapter about West Oakland shelter/housing explorations, for the Village Buildings project (see:, and may visit and stay there in the next few weeks on a trip to California. 
Anyway, great article, thank you Angie for sharing. 
cheers, Tim 

Tim McCormick
Moderator PDX Shelter Forum, Editor at HousingWiki,
Organizer at Village Collaborative
Portland, Oregon 

On Tue, May 11, 2021 at 5:27 AM Angie Gilbert <kaytayang@...> wrote:
Tucked under a highway overpass in West Oakland, just beyond a graveyard of charred cars and dumped debris, lies an unexpected refuge. There’s a collection of beautiful, small structures built from foraged materials. There’s a hot shower, a fully stocked kitchen and health clinic. There’s a free ...

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Elise Aymer
Co-founder, Critical Diversity Solutions
Pronouns: She/her

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