THE STORY OF JOCELYN'S CORNER
In the process of making the concert version of The Winter's Journey Project, which premiered in May of 2019, I met Jocelyn Foreman. She's the mother of five girls and a Site Coordinator for Family Engagement in Berkeley Unified School District. This means she helps children who are food-, clothing-, and housing-insecure to get what they need so they can come to school and learn. She is an expert at mapping the struggles of one family into the struggles of a community, so when she helps one, she helps many.
The interview with her was profound. I was six months pregnant with my son when we talked, and the things she told me have stuck with me to this day. Since then, we have stayed in touch and become friends.
For over 10 years, she struggled with housing while raising her daughters. When I met her, she believed she had found stable footing. She found a house for which she was able to meet the rent every month from the income of her job at BUSD and as an elder caregiver. Little did she know that when she signed the lease, the house was in pre-foreclosure. When she got the notice on her door the following summer notifying her of the foreclosure, her world was once again unstable.
Hope came in the form of a new law called SB 1079, which went into effect in January of 2021.
In Oakland, four mothers had occupied a vacant property in 2019 that had been snapped up by a company with deep pockets, but was not being rented or sold again. It was just being left vacant, like so many other properties in Oakland, where too many people go without housing to allow for such negligence. They were activist in their occupation, calling press conferences and founding a group called Moms4Housing. It was through their activism that California SB 1079 was passed.
This law gives renters of property being sold at foreclosure auction, as well as non-profits acting on their behalf, the right to match the highest bid after the auction. If they can do that, the house is theirs. With funds raised, the house can be bought on the renter’s behalf by a stewardship organization like a Community Land Trust or a Permanent Real Estate Cooperative. In collaboration with the stewardship organization they can manage repairs and maintenance while continuing with the renter’s regular monthly payments.
By March of 2021, SB 1079 had not been tested, and Jocelyn stepped up to tell her story - a struggle she had kept from her colleagues and community for years. She realized that if we could raise the funds, not only would she have stable housing, but she wouldl pave the way forward for the many renters who would likely be facing similar situations after the ban on rent collection due to Covid19 lifts.
In the Spring of 2021, I organized with mothers throughout the Berkeley Unified School District whose lives have been moved and inspired by her work. I worked principally in PR and social media, making sure her story was being told faithfully and getting out to any ear that would hear.
The project was fiscally sponsored by Berkeley Public Schools fund, legally supported by The Sustainable Economies Law Center, and stewarded by the Northern California Land Trust. Within the course of the six weeks granted us by the law, we not only organized all these organizations; the project was covered twice by San Francisco’s KQED, then syndicated to NPR stations all over the world.
Through the attention we got from KQED’s coverage and from collaborations I was able to create with mom influencers all over the country, as well as the massive community organizing of the other Berkeley mothers, we raised over $100,000 in two weeks, making bridge loan of $500,000 from the National Housing Trust possible. In addition, the project was granted over $79,000 by the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation*
Jocelyn is a powerful force when it comes to taking care of her community, and it was more than moving to watch her community take the chance to be a powerful force for her.
After two months of basking in the glow of our success, we kept organizing and pressuring the California State Legislature on social media to fund SB 1079 in the upcoming budget considerations.
In July of 2021, the California State Legislature passed funding for SB 1079 acquisitions.
For half a billion dollars over three years.