(CNN)A group of homeless mothers and their children in California were forcibly evicted Tuesday from a vacant home they'd been illegally living in for months, officials said.
Homeless mothers with Oakland's 'Moms 4 Housing' have been forcibly evicted from a vacant home they were occupying
Alameda County Sheriff's deputies used a court order to remove the mothers, who belonged to the Oakland group "Moms 4 Housing" around 5 a.m. on Tuesday. Two mothers were arrested.
No children were in the house during the forced eviction, Dominique Walker, a group member and spokeswoman, told CNN.
The "Moms 4 Housing" group had occupied the vacant house on Magnolia Street since November 18. The group is a "collective of unhoused and insecurely housed mothers, organizing to reclaim vacant homes from real estate speculators," according to its website.
Their high-profile, socially motivated squatting effort had gained public traction as homeless in California surged 16.4% in 2019 compared with the prior year, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The rise in unsheltered and chronically homeless people across the West Coast fueled a 2.7% bump nationwide and "offset" decreases in the condition in 29 states and Washington DC, the agency said.
Alameda County deputies responding Tuesday to the "Moms 4 Housing" residence arrested three people, including the two mothers, inside the home, Alameda County Sheriff Public Information Officer Ray Kelly said in a news conference Tuesday morning.
Oakland residents 38-year old Misty Cross, 36-year old Tolani King and 25-year old Jesse Turner will face misdemeanor charges of resisting and obstructing the eviction process, according to Kelly. A fourth person who arrived after the eviction began was also arrested.
"We view what happened today as a beginning of a movement," Walker told CNN. "This is a movement for housing for all."
The Magnolia Street house, which Walker said had been vacant for over two years, belonged to Wedgewood Inc., which started the eviction process shortly after the group moved in.
"Wedgewood is pleased the illegal occupation of its Oakland home has ended peacefully," Sam Singer, a Wedgewood spokesman, told CNN.
"That is what the company has sought since the start. We will now work with a non-profit, Shelter 37, to renovate the home giving opportunities to at-risk Oakland youths and splitting the profits with the non-profit so that other youths may benefit."
Walker, a single working mother of two, was homeless before moving into the vacant house. She and another mother of two lived in the vacant home before they were forcibly evicted.
"It shows the pure evilness of speculators," Walker said in response to the Wedgewood statement. "This is why we want them out of our community. They have no respect for the communities, no respect for humanity, only respect for profit and greed. This house means nothing to them."
Walker said the group of mothers even offered to buy the vacant home for the price Wedgewood paid for it, but their offer was rejected.
The "Moms 4 Housing" spokeswoman initially filed a claim of right to possession with the Alameda County Superior Court on December 17. She was being represented by attorneys with Brunner & Mehta and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
"Data reveals that there are four vacant homes within Oakland for every one of the city's homeless residents," the claim read. "Ms. Walker and her children began to occupy and continue to occupy the premises to meet their right to housing."
Her lawyers argued that Walker had a right to live in the home which "sat vacant for years," according to the claim.
On Friday, the court denied her claim and gave the sheriff's office five days to evict the mothers, Micah Clatterbaugh, an associate attorney with Siegel, Yee, Brunner & Mehta, told CNN.
"The court recognizes the i