Oakland’s homeless epidemic is largely a Black problem. According to an Alameda County Survey, “almost 70 percent of the people living on Oakland’s streets are black. Yet black people were 28 percent of Oakland’s 2010 census population.” It is even more bleak if you are in the foster system, in Alameda County more than half, 915 of 1698 foster children, are Black. And according to research “About half of those exiting foster care and juvenile justice systems will be homeless within six months.”
Think about that—these children are literally wards of the state—our children—and half of them will be homeless within half a year
Neither of these statistics are inevitable, and ultimately they reflect historical inequities, inequities created by discriminatory laws and actions.
We owe a duty both to the victims of historic discrimination and also to our most vulnerable children; those in foster or supervised care. And we can do something.
The Assets OUSD Does Have
One asset OUSD has is land and underutilized buildings. By its own count, OUSD has roughly 12,000 empty classroom seats, around a quarter of the total seats. It also has nearly 50 acres of undeveloped land, as well as sites that don’t house students. Other districts have used land or building for the most vulnerable families, typically partnering with a non profit that provides the actual services.
As I said, other districts have done this—in So Cal a boarding school for foster students was built on district land, other districts have created housing for vulnerable populations from homeless, to low income, to seniors, to lower paid school staff who couldn’t afford to live in the district. Further San Francisco is looking at partnering with homeless support agencies to do shelters in school building themselves.
If you work in schools in Oakland, you see these kids, sleeping in vehicles or tents, shuttling around to avoid the cops and the predators. What if we just set up a safe overnight parking areas for families with basic facilities in school parking lots. I don’t have all the answers.
But I do have a lot of questions. In a rich city, with a district so rich in land, how do we have so many homeless families and children?
And why don’t we do something about it.
If you want to do something about it please join us on Saturday 10/20 at Geoffrey’s as we come together to listen to community and push for action at our Black Paper Celebration event.