As the region’s pricey housing market forces more residents to camp on city streets and huddle under freeways, Oakland unveiled a $9 million initiative last week to help those on the verge of losing a roof over their heads.
Mayor Libby Schaaf and a coalition of nonprofits announced on Oct. 15 the Keep Oakland Housed program to provide legal, financial and supportive services to residents experiencing a housing crisis.
“No one deserves to spend a single night on the streets,” Schaaf said at a news conference at Oakland City Hall.
Three nonprofits will provide services in the program: Bay Area Community Services, Catholic Charities of the East Bay and the East Bay Community Law Center.
The website www.keepoaklandhoused.org was launched for the initiative, which will run through 2022. Residents facing a housing crisis can also call 211.
“This is what we have to do at this moment, when the Bay Area is becoming so expensive,” Schaaf said.
Oakland residents who are in the midst of a housing crisis, who have a household income at or below 50 percent of the area median income ($58,100 for a family of four) are eligible for the program. Priority will be given to extremely low-income households and legal representation will be provided to tenants with active eviction lawsuits.
The program, funded by $9 million from the San Francisco Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, will provide financial assistance of up to $7,000 per individual or family to help residents stay in their homes. The money will not go directly to residents, but to landlords or third-party vendors.
Tirien Steinbach, executive director of the East Bay Community Law Center, said pressures of the region’s tightening rental market provide incentives to landlords to raise rents. Tenants are feeling the squeeze, and need help fighting evictions.
Oakland already has strong tenant laws, “but these laws have no power if not enforced,” Steinbach said.
Jaime Almanza, executive director of Bay Area Community Services, said Keep Oakland Housed sets up a way for residents to get the help they need immediately.
“We are creating a housing emergency system that can respond the same day,” Almanza said.
Over the past year, Oakland has created three Tuff Shed villages to house homeless. The small plastic sheds can shelter two people on narrow cots with a curtain separating the roommates.
The latest camp of sheds, near Lake Merritt, holds about 40 people.
Schaaf said that so far, 65 percent of those leaving the sheds have left for transitional or permanent housing.
The mayor said the city was also planning to make its winter shelter, which opens on Oct. 22, a year-round shelter.
More than 2,700 people were estimated to be homeless in Oakland, as of the most recent homeless survey on Jan. 30, 2017.
Story originally published by Bay City News.