While OUSD sits on empty land and empty buildings, and the streets fill with Oakland families, Youth Spirit Artworks is providing a glimmer of hope, and an example we, and OUSD should learn from. These folks worked with homeless youth and volunteers to design and build 24 tiny houses, that should soon house these burgeoning architects and construction engineers.
OUSD can do the exact same thing, and hopefully will approve the Board housing policy which would prioritize using its unused properties for housing and prioritizing transitional youth.
You can see the Mercury News article here describing the process,
“The project was organized by Youth Spirit Artworks, an interfaith job-training nonprofit focused on homeless and low-income youth. The group’s founder, Sally Hindman, is quick to remind anyone that every detail of Tiny House Village, which should be ready for move in by the end of August, was thought of by the young people themselves. They’ve imagined, designed, and are now building 24 tiny houses which they hope will soon be theirs…
The $1.2 million dollar project, managed by the Housing Consortium of the East Bay and funded by nonprofits, congregations and the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, will house 22 homeless youth, one manager, and two resident assistants. Hindman said she knows this won’t solve youth homelessness, but said the village model is cheap and easily replicable.”
$1.2 million is nothing in the scope of things, and the immediate and massive changes in a young person’s life outweighs that cost the first day these kids are off the street or out of whatever situation they are getting out of.
These 22 young people are blessed, but it is a drop in the bucket of need, again from the article
“In 2019, more than 700 Alameda County residents between the ages of 18 and 24 weren’t able to find a place to sleep, according to a UC Berkeley study. The county only has 36 shelter beds designated specifically for homeless youth, said Hindman.”
OUSD absolutely can and should learn from this. As one of the largest landowners in the City and one that has large swaths of underused or unused properties. This should be an opportunity, imagine a high school program, working with the trades, that teaches kids construction and design, apprentices them, and builds housing.
I am sure there will be objections.
“We haven’t done this before.”
“It will take years to develop housing.”
“Lets study this for several years and create a 83 person commission.”
“We cant walk and chew gum at the same time.”
None of these arguments are worth the paper they are printed on, and they all pale in comparison to the opportunity that OUSD has to actually help our most vulnerable families, and ultimately save service costs and potentially generate revenue.
The need and opportunity are clear in front of us, whether we seize or squander them is our responsibility.
Oakland deserves better. This is ultimately the public’s land, and it should be put to public uses. Please support Board policy 7351, which requires OUSD to look at using its property for housing and prioritizes immediate action for unsheltered youth.
You can read the policy here