OUSD counted 1,001 unhoused students last year, 64% of those were Newcomers, and of the non Newcomers, more than half of the unhoused students were Black. You can see all the data in the latest fact sheet. The news is depressing, Oakland has the highest percentage of homeless in the entire state according to a recent article in the Chronicle, and youth are not spared. This is only getting worse, but we have an opportunity to make a real change.
This week, OUSD is holding its first 7-11 committee meeting to determine what property it should “surplus.” Once a property is determined a surplus property, the district can sell, lease, or otherwise utilize it. This is a huge opportunity. OUSD is one of the City’s largest landowners with 525 acres of property. It has several former school or administrative sites that sit empty and idle, and others that are half full. 10% of OUSD’s land is totally undeveloped and more than half is programmed outdoor space (playgrounds, parking lots etc.).
OUSD needs to prioritize public uses of its property, for the most vulnerable families—like these unhoused youth. San Francisco Unified did this through a charter school that has residential facilities for youth. OUSD could do something similar. And mind you, we should also get paid off the hottest real estate market in memory, and put that money into the schools, or paying down the debt.
But as the eventual scramble comes for the district’s assets, we need to remember who the schools are here for, and be creative on how we better serve them. OUSD can create solutions. However, the last time the district convened around surplus property—it did exactly nothing. I just hope we aren’t stuck on stupid as we have been the last several decades, and that we take this opportunity to serve our most underserved youth.
In a poor district that is rich in land, these students deserve housing.