'We're Not Leaving': Homeless Mom Says After Judge Orders Oakland Home Vacated

Dominique Walker, a member of Moms 4 Housing, sits in a West Oakland home that's been vacant for two years. Walker and other homeless mothers have been occupying the home since November 2019.  (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)

An Alameda County Superior Court judge on Friday ruled against a homeless mother who moved into an empty West Oakland home and directed sheriff's officials to enforce an eviction within five days.

Judge Patrick R. McKinney ordered Dominique Walker to immediately vacate the property along with others in the house, including members of the group Moms 4 Housing. But Walker said she and the other women aren’t going anywhere.

“We are here. And we’re not leaving,” she told media and supporters outside the home Friday afternoon.

McKinney said Walker has no valid rights of possession to the home on Magnolia Street, which is owned by Redondo Beach-based real estate investment group Wedgewood Properties.

In his ruling, McKinney said “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.”

Dominique Walker with Moms 4 Housing speaks to media and supporters outside 2928 Magnolia Street, a vacant house that she has lived in without permission from the owner since Nov. 18, 2019. (Molly Solomon/KQED)

Walker, 34, and other mothers began occupying the three-bedroom home on Magnolia Street in November to avoid living on the streets. The mothers said the house had been vacant for two years, and that they were acting partly in protest against speculators buying up properties in the Bay Area and leaving them empty amid a growing homelessness crisis.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said it plans to enforce the court's eviction order. Spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said the department has offered to discuss alternative housing solutions with the mothers, but its offer for a sit-down conversation was rejected.

“It does not appear that they are willing to meet us halfway,” said Kelly. “They have decided that they are staying put and are wanting to take this case to the end.”

McKinney has been considering the ruling since he heard oral arguments Dec. 30. Attorneys for Walker argued that housing is a human right, and that if the moms were evicted, their constitutional rights would be severely impacted. The judge had previously made a tentative ruling in favor of Wedgewood. At the December hearing, he had expressed doubts that the courtroom was the right venue to hear these arguments.

“Justice is served,” Sam Singer, a Wedgewood spokesman, said in a statement. “The court’s ruling is the correct legal, moral and ethical judgment against the squatters that broke in and illegally occupied the company’s home.”

Despite the judge’s ruling against her, Walker intends to keep fighting for her right to housing. And, she said, she won’t stop until every person experiencing homelessness has shelter.

“Today is not a defeat,” she said. “This is the beginning of a movement."

Attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg, who is representing Walker, said they weren't surprised by the ruling: “We understand that the court's hands are tied because in this country, property rights are valued over human rights.”

"That is why the California Constitution needs to be amended to include the right to housing," she added.

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Moms 4 Housing has gained support from California lawmakers and Oakland city officials, including City Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Nikki Fortunato Bas. On Monday, Fortunato Bas said the offer was still on the table for Wedgewood to sell the home to the Oakland Community Land Trust, which would allow the women to stay in the house.

Fortunato Bas said she intends to bring forward policy changes to shine a light on real estate speculators, like Wedgewood.

“I am working with my colleagues inside City Hall to explore what we can do in terms of systemic policy that will hold accountable the corporate speculators that are leaving these homes vacant,” said Fortunato Bas.

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Carroll Fife, director of the group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, urged supporters to stand alongside Walker when the sheriff’s office comes to evict her.

“Put your bodies on the line like these mothers are putting their bodies on the line for all of us,” Fife told the crowd.

Supporters of Moms 4 Housing plan to meet outside the house to protect Walker from eviction, and possibly risk arrests, starting at 6:30 a.m. on Monday.