The New Homeless
The new Alameda County homeless count reflects what we see daily in Oakland—homelessness has surged by 39% in 2 years. The new faces of Oakland’s homeless crisis are not people with mental illness or substance abuse problems, rather they are people who cannot afford the new housing costs. They are people like Miriam, a young single Mom with three small children, who was doing everything right to move up the economic opportunity ladder. Miriam worked full-time at Target and went to school at night. Her mother, Susan, helped take care of the kids. A kitchen fire in Miriam’s apartment led to her eviction from an affordable rental at $850 month. Miriam and her family couldn’t find housing—every place that they saw was double or triple what they could afford. The few existing family shelters were full. Miriam and her family were on the brink of homelessness. Fortunately housing counselors at Causa Justa::Just Cause referred them to the City of Oakland’s Housing Assistance Center which connected Miriam with emergency rental funds, enabling them to stay in a hotel until transitional then later permanent housing could be found. Miriam and her family are now living in permanent affordable housing in Alameda Point.
How can the Oakland City Council, in the process of crafting its new budget, help people like Miriam and her family, and prevent Oakland from becoming a national epi-center for the new homeless crisis?
The City of Oakland has $5 million from housing boomerang funds used to build affordable housing that can be used instead for anti-displacement. Through new housing bond measures and a new housing impact fee, the City will have over $200 million in other funds for affordable housing development. But it will take three to five years to build new units. Meanwhile, people are losing their homes every day and ending up homeless.
Research and the City’s own prior experience show that funding a continuum of care--housing counseling, legal services, and emergency housing funds for low-income tenants and homeowners—works.