An Open Letter to all California Leaders

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

The spread of the coronavirus across the globe is already having far reaching personal and collective impacts. More than ever, every Californian needs shelter from the storm. We all deserve the reassurance of housing and income security as jobs are being lost and the economy is spiraling. 

Despite the urgency of the moment, Governor Newsom is shamefully passing the responsibility to protect people onto local governments and financial institutions instead of utilizing his power as the Chief Administrator of the State of California to enact bold measures that will provide collective safety and security. His executive order on housing is weak and does little more than encourage cities and banks to provide housing protection to a small subset of people from potential eviction or foreclosure, but only if they choose to. 

  • The order ALLOWS foreclosure and eviction filings to continue.
  • The order ALLOWS eviction proceedings to move forward.
  • The order ALLOWS foreclosure auctions to continue and permits sheriff’s departments to throw people onto the streets.

Californians have been urged, and in some cases ordered, to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but the state government has not banned banks or landlords from forcing people out of their homes. As long as this virus is spreading and killing people, ALL CALIFORNIANS must be housed. Protecting our most vulnerable neighbors protects all of us.

The time to act is NOW! Anyone who has power to protect people MUST take action to do so immediately. We call on Governor Newsom, the California Legislature, all local governments and sheriff’s departments, financial institutions, and landlords to step up and provide the following basic and critical protections:

House All Californians and Keep Us Housed!

  • For the sake of humanity - everyone who wants to be brought indoors needs to be brought in immediately. All publicly owned property and vacant housing units -including luxury units- need to be opened up to house currently unhoused people.
  • No punitive action should be taken against unhoused families who move into vacant structures to protect their health and the public’s health. We demand the government and utility agencies to turn on the electricity, gas and water and make sure they can be healthy and safe there — including those that have moved into the state-owned properties in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles.
  • Californians are struggling to pay rent and buy basic necessities. This problem will not disappear once the threat of COVID-19 has passed. Rent and mortgage payments must be frozen for as long as people are not able to work because of COVID-19, and any rent and mortgage debt accumulated during this period must be forgiven.
  • Moratoriums on any process related to evictions and foreclosures must be instituted immediately and remain in place until the spread of coronavirus is no longer a public threat. This  includes ceasing unlawful detainer or foreclosure filings, and related court and auction proceedings. The moratorium must apply to ALL evictions and foreclosures, not just those related to income loss.

Protect Workers and Pass an Economic Stimulus Targeted at People.

Because of forced social distancing, businesses have been ordered shut, workers who cannot work from home and those working in hospitality or recreational industries have taken severe shift cuts or been laid off entirely, and gig workers are experiencing sharp declines in opportunities to earn money. People are losing the income they depend on to meet their basic shelter, food, and medical needs. 

  • Workers need to be protected from losing their jobs while the economy slows in the wake of this health crisis. Californians need a guarantee that they will be rehired if they have been laid off, or that their shifts will be restored once isolation orders have been lifted. 
  • Anyone who is laid off or experiencing a decline in wages must have access to unemployment benefits that cover 100% of that person’s wages before the job decline.
  • Californians need an immediate stimulus package that puts cash in people’s hands. We must learn the lessons from the 2008 financial crisis and bail out people -not just businesses.

The COVID-19 emergency illuminates the structural inequities that have long plagued our communities and the only way to get through this is by prioritizing people and acting together. It is the moral responsibility of our leaders to rise to the moment and protect people from this health and economic crisis. If the government and private industries are not willing to do what it takes to protect us, WE will be forced to organize communities to take collective action to protect one another. If vacant homes aren’t opened we will occupy them. If economic security is not guaranteed we will call for general rent and mortgage strikes. 

Now is the time to rise to the occasion and protect the most vulnerable Californians. 

If our leaders won’t do it, we will.

Join us in sending this open letter to your state legislator and the Governor!