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Councilmember Bas' efforts to improve Homeless Encampment Management Policy & Program

On July 9, 2019, City Council approved the recommendations proposed by Councilmember Bas to improve the City’s Homeless Encampment Management Program with regards to its overall goals of housing, health and safety, as well as the program's communication and coordination with City Councilmembers, unsheltered residents, advocates and neighbors.

Oakland’s housing affordability and homelessness crisis is a top priority of residents, as informed by the City’s budget survey. Our goal as a City should be housing our residents. And while people are living on our curbs, our focus should be public health and safety — the health and safety of unsheltered individuals and families, and surrounding communities, and addressing sanitation, trash, illegal dumping and fire safety.

The Encampment Management Program cites a “harm reduction” approach. To live up to our goals as well as this approach, we must improve information sharing and collaboration among all stakeholders. Given the severity of the homelessness crisis and lack of sufficient affordable housing, we must be willing to conduct critical, yet constructive, evaluations of our past work; and we must also be willing to innovate and try new strategies that will advance our goals of health and safety, and housing all our residents.

Read the specific recommendations in the June 20 memo linked below. These include improvements in:

• policies/procedures regarding encampment closures, provision of basic services, co-governed encampments, and employment of unsheltered residents,

• transparency and accountability, and

• communication and coordination with unsheltered residents, advocates and neighbors.

Councilmember Bas also called for an independent performance and financial audit of the City’s Encampment Management Program, which the City Auditor is currently pursuing. See coverage from KPIX here on the audit.

In addition, she advocated for additional resources in the City’s two-year budget. The final 2019-2021 budget allocates $32 million to address homelessness by:

• expanding health, sanitation, safety services for unsheltered residents

• funding self-governed encampments and temporary housing options such as tiny homes, shipping containers, and mobile homes. We must work with all government agencies to ID vacant land and buildings for shelter -- OUSD, Peralta, Alameda County, the state, and CalTrans.

• hiring a mobile outreach team and full-time administrator focused on homelessness

• creating homeless navigation centers

• acquiring transitional housing facilities, including a center for families

• providing employment training and opportunities to hire unsheltered residents to help improve Oakland

• expanding services for homeless youth with a focus on LGBTQ+ youth

• creating the city's first-ever Commission on Homelessness

In December 2019, as the Council's Life Enrichment Committee discussed the City's five-year framework to address homelessness, CM Bas shared her priorities and an independent analysis of the City's plan. CM Bas' priorities, which align with best practices around the country to reduce and end homelessness include:

1. producing deeply affordable housing,

2. preventing homelessness, and

3. increasing and stabilizing income.

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