Revealing the Crisis of Homelessness in Oakland

Kim Webber uses the power of storytelling to capture people’s attention and get them to open their eyes to the injustices tied to the crisis of homelessness in Oakland, CA.

“I want it to be undeniable quality because I want people to take it seriously,” Kim says of her work documenting the issue.

Video Transcript

Oakland — over 8,000 people are homeless in Alameda County.

Kim Webber: For someone who’s never experienced an eviction, the first way to describe it is definitely the sounds. There’s very jarring sounds — loud, oppressive sounds of this heavy machinery bulldozing people’s belongings.

Kim is documenting this housing crisis. Oakland’s rent prices rose 7 percent in two years.

Homelessness has exploded. Everywhere — almost — you go, you see large encampments filled with tents. So let’s be very, very clear: It’s profit over people. That’s what you’re seeing with the new-found influx of wealth.

Can you talk a little bit more about the feelings you felt today?

Woman: The feelings that I felt today, it had broke my heart.

Twenty-eight percent of Oakland’s people are black. Sixty-eight percent of Oakland’s homeless are black.

Kim: Slowly, over time, I recognized the undeniable power of storytelling and how incredible it is a tool to get people to pay attention to the injustices happening in the world. My camera is connected to a crane — it creates a very cinematic motion that seductively lures people in. I want it to be undeniable quality, because I want people to take it seriously.

The goal is to release that footage in real-time on Instagram to show people what’s really happening in Oakland.

Man: I’m going to change this message. When I go to city council, I’ve been kind of leaving it alone, kind of leaving it like a issue of just general homelessness. But no, it’s a black issue.

Another homeless encampment was evicted.

Woman: Black folks are the ones who are being displaced here in Oakland. And the homeless crisis is being impacted by black folks — that’s who’s out in the streets.

Kim: We spoke to a woman today who highlighted how deeply unfair and hurtful it was for her to be displaced. She told us that she was doing everything in her power to hold herself together and not have a physical breakdown because of the trauma that she was going through.

Two minutes later, she had a seizure.

So, do we need the paramedics to come out?

There are definitely a lot of photographers in Oakland who seek out homeless people in the photographs they take on the street to highlight their work on social media. Their work stops in that moment. My work is an effort that’s deeply aligned with a community of activists and people within the unhoused community that do this work.

Oakland has a very profound history of activism and people of color knowing their rights, and we are just not the people to walk over.

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