Berkeley, California | Film Feature

Documentary, History

John Slattery

2 Campaigns | California, United States

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This campaign raised $5,946 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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A long-form cinematic diary of a twelve-year-old girl navigating 7th grade, enduring homelessness and participating in the take-over of an abandoned home with the Moms4Housing movement.

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About The Project

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Mission Statement

Shelter in the Palace, takes on the California Housing Crisis as experienced from the perspective of African-American kids and moms, and offers a sharp contrast to the story told by public NEWS media.

The Story

In response to the worst residential affordability crisis in California history, a group of homeless, working moms and kids take over an abandoned home and with it, capture the imagination and conversation around the California housing crisis and the civil rights movement for housing as a human right.

Shortly after Moms4Housing took over the home on Magnolia St., they asked us to make a film about their movement.

This is that film.



Shelter in the Palace, takes on the California Housing Crisis as experienced from the perspective of African-American kids and moms—all native Oaklanders.

Consider this. Approximately 4,500 people are homeless each night in Oakland. One-third to one-half of homeless people are women and girls. Now consider that for each person homeless in Oakland, there are four times as many empty units.

Between 2000 to 2010 Oakland has lost 25 percent of its black population — over 33,000 people due to skyrocketing rents, a growing number of low-wage jobs, and a rush of speculators flipping properties for profit.

Wedgewood (the corporation that owns the home) has a sprawling operation that epitomizes a major shift in the housing market, which is increasingly dominated by anonymous owners operating through a web of shell companies. More than 3 million homes and 13 million apartment buildings are owned by LLP, LC, or LLC entities, according to 2015 census data, business structures that do not mandate naming owners or investors.

Most states no longer require limited liability companies to disclose their owners, making them an attractive vehicle for “individuals who wish to own real estate but want to be able to hide their identity,” writes Susan Pace Hamill, a University of Alabama Law professor. That often poses a major problem for tenants trying to figure out who exactly is evicting them, or cities that want to go after the owner of vacant properties in disrepair.

In 2019, the number of homeless people in Oakland surpassed 4,000, a 47 percent rise from 2017. It’s a problem that’s become characteristic of California, which overall saw a 16.4 percent increase in homelessness from 2018 to 2019, fueling a spike nationwide. Children make up 17% of the homeless population of Oakland.

But what Oakland is experiencing is happening everywhere. Each place has its own unique challenges, but almost everywhere are the same root causes: a legacy of racial discrimination in housing policy and investments, investors seeking to profit off housing rather than actually house people, and a government that has failed to build the affordable housing we need.

And, as black single mothers, the Moms are a part of populations that disproportionately experience homelessness. According to a 2018 assessment from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), African Americans are overrepresented in the nation’s homeless population. Another government report from the same year notes that of families experiencing homelessness, many are led by single mothers, who then face high rates of conflict and violence.

The only demographic category in the Bay Area whose incomes mostly rise above the salary needed for a two-bedroom abode in the Moms’ West Oakland neighborhood is white men, who earn a little more than $100,000 at the median. Black women earn less than half of that—$49,369. While Latinas bring in even less at $39,600.

Atop this bleak reality, sits perhaps one sign of hope and with it a moving a triumphant story. The Moms4Housing Movement have taken over a home and with it they’ve taken over the narrative about affordable housing in the USA, making this the civil rights issues of today.


Early stage production was completed in February 2020, just before the Covid stay-at-home order was issued in California. We are now applying for grants and preparing for the next stage of production. We want to film the larger city of Oakland and see how other Oaklanders were inspired and engaged by the Moms4Housing movement.



Your donation is tax deductible! SHELTER IN THE PALACE is a fiscally sponsored project of the International Documentary Association (IDA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions in support of SHELTER IN THE PALACE are payable to IDA and are tax deductible, less the value of any goods or services received, as allowed by law. The value of goods and services being offered is noted under each donation level. If you would like to deduct the entire donation you have the option to simply decline the reward at checkout.



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Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Office Costs

Costs $2,500

Renting office space in order to write, record and draft edit in a manner that's safe during COVID.

Camera, Sound, Lights

Costs $4,500

Renting video, sound equipment and lights... adds up $ quick.

About This Team

John Slattery, Producer/ Director

John Slattery’s directing debut, Casablanca Mon Amour, had a special preview screening by the San Francisco Film Society before a world premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival.  It was highlighted in the New York Times then picked up for broadcast by BBC, and has now been invited to over 22 international festivals. 

His latest feature-length documentary now in post-production, has been awarded a LEF Visual Arts Grant and was recently selected to be for the BAVC 4x10 series as well as Utah Humanities grant.

He holds an MFA from the Department of Film and Digital Media at University of California, Los Angeles and lives in Berkeley, CA


Leah Simon-Weisberg, Esq., Producer

Leah presently serves as the Directing Attorney for the Shelter Client Advocate Program at Eviction Defense Collaborative in San Francisco.  She began her housing work in Los Angeles as the co-Executive Director of the Eviction Defense Network (“EDN”).  At EDN, she litigated over 1,000 unlawful detainer cases on behalf of tenants facing eviction in Los Angeles County.

Until recently, Leah was the Directing Attorney of the Tenant Rights Practice at Centro Legal de la Raza where she managed a staff of 21 and oversaw the anti-displacement programs for the County of Alameda and City of Oakland.  She led policy initiatives which led to historic increases in rent control and just cause for eviction protections across Alameda County. Before returning to locally based work at Centro Legal de la Raza, Leah was a founding board member of Tenants Together (“TT”), eventually becoming their Legal Director. At TT, she managed the litigation practice which included class action and multi-plaintiff fair housing, habitability, tenant contract and consumer rights matters. She regularly provided technical assistance on rent control and was the author of the ordinance that passed in Richmond, California in November 2017.  Before joining Tenants Together, Leah was the Managing Attorney of the Anti-Predatory Lending and Home Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Practice at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. This fall, Leah began representing Moms4housing and their movement to make housing a human right.


Cece Hall, Sound Supervisor

Senior Vice-President of Post Production Sound, Paramount Studios
Ms. Hall was the first woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound FX Editing in 1987, for Top Gun. She won the Academy Award for Best Sound FX Editing for The Hunt for Red October in 1991. Other credits include Witness, Star Trek I, II, & III, Beverly Hills Cop I & II, Terms of Endearment, Addams Family I & II. Ms. Hall has been nominated for many MPSE Golden Reel Awards, and she won the Golden Reel Award for Something So Right and Top Gun. Ms. Hall served on the Executive Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and on the Board of the Motion Picture Sound Editors, and was the first woman elected President of that organization in 1984.


Curtiss Clayton, Editing Advisor

Curtiss has been a collaborator with Gus Van Sant on many films including Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and To Die For; he also edited Vincent Gallo's Buffalo 66.




Current Team