Culture

Homeless shelter experiment in Oakland hits a snag


OAKLAND, CA – NOVEMBER 1: Andrea Zeppa, left, and Lynette Ward tour the Lakeview Village Pallet Shelter project site at East 12th Street and 2nd Avenue on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

In recent weeks, a handful of vocal opponents have started speaking out against the co-governed project at City Council meetings, protesting it at the site, and putting up fliers listing their complaints. Nino Parker, a 68-year-old activist who lives on the streets of Oakland, objects to what he sees as segregation — residents of the co-governed side are mostly White, while residents of the city-run side are predominantly Black. And he doesn’t think it’s fair that people from Union Point got preference for the cabins.

“The people that should be entitled to those tiny homes are the people in that geographic area, which would be Lake Merritt,” Parker said. “There’s space being taken from people that should be entitled.”

OAKLAND, CA – JAN. 7: Nino Parker, 68, of Oakland, writes a message on a giant poster board while outside a tiny home village in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Parker has been protesting in front of the village since January 16, 2021. Parker is upset that half of it is reserved for people who used to live at a specific encampment in Union Point Park. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Last month, Parker and Garrett-Clark got into a confrontation during one of Parker’s protests, which ended with Garrett-Clark pushing Parker away. Shortly after, Garrett-Clark said, the city terminated his contract without telling him why. The city declined to comment on the reason.

Now, Housing Consortium of the East Bay — a larger nonprofit that’s already managing the city-run side of the site — will take over the co-governed side. The nonprofit intends to maintain the co-governed structure, said Executive Director Darin Lounds, but some residents worry their voices won’t be heard going forward.

“The trust we truly believe will be built over time,” Lounds said. “I don’t think it’s there yet. I wouldn’t blame them if it isn’t.”

The nonprofit also has set up a “community council” of unhoused residents and housed neighbors at the Lake Merritt site, a first in Oakland.

The saga of the co-governed camp began last year, when under the threat of fines from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, Oakland attempted to clear a long-standing encampment at Union Point Park. As city workers rolled in with heavy equipment, more than a dozen residents set up barricades and

An experimental village of tiny homes next to Oakland’s Lake Merritt could have been a Bay Area model, showing how unhoused people can design and run their own communities working with local nonprofits.

But a recent setback, weeks before residents were expected to move into their self-designed community, has spotlighted how difficult that “co-governed” vision can be to implement.

Following small protests that culminated in an altercation, Oakland has ended its contract with the nonprofit that was working on the tiny home project. Now, homeless residents are wondering what will become of the community they spent nearly a year planning.

The group of 15 unhoused Oaklanders was to start one of the Bay Area’s first co-governed shelter sites. The model, which gives unhoused people a level of autonomy unheard of in most programs, has worked in places including Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

The idea is catching on locally as well. San Jose for the first time has gotten unhoused and formerly unhoused people involved in the design and management of a new transitional housing site near Guadalupe River Park. And a new tiny home community at Peralta and 3rd Streets in West Oakland gives residents a say in how the site looks and operates. But true co-governance can be difficult to pull off.

“I was up for the very, very scary challenge ahead,” said Adam Garrett-Clark, who was tasked with setting up the Lake Merritt site through his nonprofit Tiny Logic. “I knew that it was going to push me to learn a ton and if I survived it, I would come out a stronger person and build a better organization to serve people. I was definitely really sad, and am sad, that I don’t get to see that through.”

The site at E 12th Street and 2nd Avenue holds several dozen Pallet shelters — small, rudimentary cabins where people sleep while awaiting permanent housing. A fence divides the lot. On one side is a traditional city-run program for up to 65 people who have been sleeping in tents around Lake Merritt. On the other is the experimental co-governed community, where the group of 15 residents — all of whom used to live together in an encampment at Union Point Park — are still set to move in by Friday.

OAKLAND, CA – NOVEMBER 1: Andrea Zeppa, left, and Lynette Ward tour the Lakeview Village Pallet Shelter project site at East 12th Street and 2nd Avenue on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

In recent weeks, a handful of vocal opponents have started speaking out against the co-governed project at City Council meetings, protesting it at the site, and putting up fliers listing their complaints. Nino Parker, a 68-year-old activist who lives on the streets of Oakland, objects to what he sees as segregation — residents of the co-governed side are mostly White, while residents of the city-run side are predominantly Black. And he doesn’t think it’s fair that people from Union Point got …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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