From Sidewalks to Services: Oakland Opens 5th Community Cabin Site

West Oakland location is first double site; highlights the power of regional collaboration and partnership.

Oakland, CA – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf today joined with state and local government officials, private-sector partners, and service providers to announce the opening of the City’s fifth Community Cabin site located on Mandela Parkway in West Oakland at the Emeryville border.

Community Cabin sites are an emergency intervention designed to serve as a temporary bridge from the sidewalk to services, from the street to housing. The model has been an effective and compassionate intervention focused on increasing people’s health, stability, dignity, and safety while service providers intensively work with people to help end their unsheltered status.

This new site illustrates the power of regional collaboration and partnership:

  • The cities of Oakland and Emeryville have combined resources to address the encampments that straddle the border between the cities
  • Caltrans has made the site available to the City for a $1 per month lease. AB 3139 (Bonta) allows Caltrans to lease State highway property for emergency shelter to the City of Oakland for up to ten parcels for $1 per month. This is consistent with Governor Newsom’s directive that public lands be made available to address the homelessness crisis.
  • Corporate foundations—Target, Sutter Health, and the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce—have provided funding for the site, and the Home Depot Foundation has provided funding, building supplies, and dozens of associates from local Home Depot stores who volunteered their time and talents building ADA-accessible ramps and decks for the cabins.

“The Mandela site represents an unprecedented collaboration between two neighboring cities and the state of California to address the homelessness crisis,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “We all see, feel, and experience the suffering of homelessness in our communities and I’m proud our regional leaders have come together for the first time to provide emergency shelter in a compassionate manner.”

Emeryville Mayor Ally Medina said: “Regional problems require regional solutions. As part of our ongoing commitment to address homelessness, we are glad to partner with the City of Oakland on the Mandela Community Cabin site, where unsheltered residents will receive direct services. We are also pleased that the State’s budget will allocate more of the same funds that made this project possible, as the housing crisis is a statewide issue that we will need to work together to tackle.”

“Oakland is our Bay Area home and today we’re celebrating an important milestone in this collaborative effort to help develop innovative solutions to address homelessness,” said Caltrans Bay Area Director Tony Tavares. “We previously committed to providing opportunities for employment for individuals in transitional housing programs. Today, we’re committing 10 additional positions for our Oakland residents as they bridge into the next chapter of their lives.”

The Mandela location was chosen in response to the persistent public health and safety hazards at two large, nearby encampments along the Oakland/Emeryville border: 1) 35th & Magnolia and 2) Hollis & West MacArthur. Outreach teams have conducted a thorough census of the homeless population at these sites and there is space at the Mandela site to accommodate everyone from these encampments. Residents of these encampments will be offered space at the Mandela Community Cabins, and then the encampments will be closed.

The Mandela Community Cabins site will be twice as large as the other Community Cabins sites and will serve 76 people in two distinct sections, each serving 38 people. The Mandela site will be the first Community Cabin site to offer single cabin accommodations to a few people in each section, based on need. The site will open next week and is expected to fill up by mid-August.

Service providers will provide ongoing support at the site including: Operation Dignity and Lava Mae, a mobile shower provider.

This double-sized site will cost $1.7 million per year to operate ($850,000 per section). Funds to operate each site come from the California State Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).

At the back of the site there was enough space left for the City to also develop a small Safe RV Parking Area that will be opened at a later date, after the cabins have been launched. That space can accommodate up to 17 RVs and will be reserved for people already living in RVs in the area.

The five Community Cabin sites have been made possible through the generous support of local charitable partners and private funders who have collectively contributed nearly $1.3 million in monetary and in-kind support, including Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Clorox, Oakland Builders Alliance, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Jim Moore of Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods, Pyatok Architects, Target, Home Depot Foundation, Douglas Parking, and the Church of Latter Day Saints.

The Community Cabin sites provide residents with basic services as they work with on-site case managers to transition into temporary and permanent housing facilities. The sites afford a consistency not found in the encampments: a hard roof to sleep under every night; an already established community network of friends and consistent resources; a supportive staff of case managers to connect residents to vital needs such as acquiring California ID, securing benefits, seeking employment, and ultimately getting housed.

At the Mandela site, six cabins are single occupancy and the remainder are double occupancy. The sites also include:

  • Security and privacy (one or two people per unit with a lock on the door)
  • Basic sanitary services such as porta-potties and handwashing stations
  • On-site shower service through Lava Mae once per week
  • Garbage service
  • 24/7 site security
  • Secure storage for personal items
  • Low voltage electricity to each cabin
  • Community tent with television, microwave, and water
  • Ability for people to bring in their pets
  • Limited food service (breakfast and dinner)

The site has approximately $250,000 in flexible housing funds to assist clients in overcoming any barriers to housing, including security deposits and a few months of rent subsidy, clothing for job interviews or a new job, and transportation assistance related to employment or reunification with friends or family. These flex funds contribute to greater housing outcomes through the Community Cabin sites than would be possible for the general population of people living in encampments.

Last week, the City Council adopted the two-year budget for fiscal years 2019-2021 which includes $32 million in funding for homeless services that will allow the City to expand existing homeless programs such as Community Cabins and safe parking; enhance the health, sanitation, and safety of unsheltered residents; and provide employment training and opportunities to hire unsheltered people to assist with litter removal at encampments. The funding will also support rapid-rehousing, services, and interventions for homeless residents, including a mobile homeless outreach team, and create a $2.7 million fund for anti-displacement services and housing security improvements. In addition to this budget allocation, Oakland’s partnership with the San Francisco Foundation—Keep Oakland Housed—augments the City’s budget with $8 million in rapid anti-displacement assistance.


Community Cabin sites are an emergency intervention designed to serve as a temporary bridge from the sidewalk to services, from the street to housing.

This intervention addresses the significant safety and sanitation impacts to both unsheltered residents and their sheltered neighbors that arise from encampments.

The Mandela Community Cabins site is the 5th site to open since December 2017:

  • The first site at 6th & Castro opened in December 2017 (one-year pilot; closed in Dec. 2018)
  • The 27th & Northgate site opened in May 2018
  • The Lake Merritt site opened October 2018
  • The Miller Ave site opened January 2019

Each location was chosen in response to persistent public health and safety hazards at an existing large encampment.

Community Cabins are a Temporary Bridge to End Unsheltered Status

The sites provide a safer and healthier respite from the streets where unsheltered residents receive wrap-around services to help them end their unsheltered status, including onsite housing navigators (housing-focused case managers) who connect participants to vital needs:

  • Linkages to healthcare, mental health, and addiction recovery services
  • Linkages to the mainstream homeless services system
  • Assistance securing benefits, acquiring California ID, and seeking jobs

The goal is for people to move in, receive services, and move on to the next step on their path to housing. The program is 100% voluntary, and people can come and go 24/7. The sites are designed to be extremely low barrier, with minimal rules. Participants are asked to abide by a Code of Conduct that is designed to maintain a healthy and safe community.

Community Cabin Sites Prove to be Effective and Compassionate

The Community Cabin model has been an effective and compassionate intervention focused on increasing people’s health, stability, dignity, and safety while service providers intensively work with people to help end their unsheltered status.

As of the end of June 2019, the four Community Cabin sites (6th & Castro, 27th & Northgate, Lake Merritt, Miller Ave) have served 350 people (currently serving 104 individuals):

  • 67% of all exits to-date are positive (167 of 250 exits), meaning program participants ended their unsheltered status by moving into permanent housing, shelter placement, or reunification with friends and family.
  • 63 people found employment

The Homelessness Crisis

  • California accounts for 50 percent of the nation’s homeless population. The crisis is growing. According to the latest count in January 2019, the number of unsheltered residents in Alameda County has grown by 43% over the past two years.
  • The 2017 point-in-time count estimated that there are 2,761 homeless people in Oakland, of whom 1,902 are unsheltered. (2019 data for Oakland is not yet available).
  • The City is investing in a wide variety of critical efforts to shelter and house individuals. This includes establishing Community Cabin sites.

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Tagged with: Newsroom, Human Services


Posted: July 3rd, 2019 4:13 PM

Last Updated: July 3rd, 2019 4:17 PM

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