From Sidewalks to Services: 7th Community Cabin Site Serves Chinatown/Jack London

Generous Oakland residents raise funds to purchase cabins.

Oak Street Community Cabin at opening, January 28, 2020

Oakland, CA – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf today joined with philanthropic neighbors, local officials—including City Councilmembers Gibson McElhaney, Thao, and Taylor, and City Auditor Courtney Ruby—private-sector partners, and service providers to announce the opening of the City’s seventh Community Cabin site located on Caltrans’ property on Oak Street near the Chinatown and Jack London neighborhoods.

Located on Oak Street at 6th Street adjacent to I-880, this new Community Cabin site will add 19 cabins and 38 beds, bringing the total number of Community Cabin beds throughout the city to 232. The Oak Street site will be managed by Roots Community Health Center in partnership with Family Bridges, which will provide housing navigation services. Caltrans has leased the property to the City for $1 per month.

“The Oak Street site is a tangible example of what happens when the community comes together to help one another,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “More than 170 Oaklanders contributed to creating this community—170 beautiful, compassionate hearts, who reached into their pocketbooks because they wanted to do something about homelessness.”

Mayor Schaaf recognized two Oakland “rock stars,” generous Oaklanders who put their compassion into action, rallying their friends and neighbors to raise funds that purchased several of the cabins at this site: Stacey Foster Martz, President of the Redwood Heights Elementary School PTA, and Olivia Smartt, who hosted house parties and engaged her community to support the Cabin Communities model. “All of the start-up costs for this Cabin Community — 100% — were donated by loving Oaklanders,” Mayor Schaaf said.

She added: “I also want to recognize some rock star volunteers—Jim Moore and Michael Pyatok—who have donated countless hours of valuable professional services, including construction, site preparation, design, and the ramps that make all of the cabins ADA accessible; it has all been a labor of love from these two Oaklanders.”

Community Cabins offer the 4 P’s: accommodations for pets, partners, possessions, and a lockable door for privacy. Insulation protects from noise and the elements, and each cabin has a low-voltage power outlet for phone charging.

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.

In just two years, the six Community Cabin sites have served 611 people:

  • Overall, 56% of all exits to date are positive, meaning program participants exited to permanent or more supportive housing.
  • More than 200 individuals have obtained a driver’s license and 145 people have found employment.

Trent Rhorer, Chair of the Shelter Working Group under Governor Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisor, and Executive Director of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency, recently praised the program: “Oakland’s Community Cabin model is one of the most promising and cost-effective homeless shelter innovations I’ve seen. With high rates of exits to permanent housing, at roughly half the cost of traditional shelter models, Oakland has been able to rapidly deploy this effective intervention that is helping unsheltered residents heal and get housed. Oakland’s innovative place-based and low-threshold approach appears to increase the shelter acceptance rate, while reducing neighborhood opposition to these facilities. Kudos to Oakland for creating this new model to compassionately and effectively reduce street homelessness.”

Outreach to residents from the existing encampments in the area—from 4th Street to 8th Street, and from Webster Street to Oak Street—has been ongoing since mid-November. Unsheltered residents were invited to move in to the Oak Street Community Cabins and have also been offered other options, including shelters, reunification with family/friends, or transitional housing at The Henry or The Holland, based on availability and eligibility.

The site will cost $850,000 per year to operate; funds come from the California State Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).

The seven Community Cabin sites have been made possible through the generous support of local charitable partners and private funders who have collectively contributed more than $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, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and more than 170 generous Oaklanders.


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 Oak Street site is the 7th site to open since December 2017:

  • The first site at 6th & Castro opened in December 2017 (closed after one-year lease expired)
  • The second site at 27th & Northgate opened in May 2018
  • The third site at Lake Merritt opened October 2018
  • The fourth site at Miller Ave opened January 2019
  • The fifth and sixth sites were both at Mandela and opened in July 2019

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

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.

The sites 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 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.

Each site has approximately $125,000 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.

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Posted: January 28th, 2020 5:51 PM

Last Updated: January 28th, 2020 6:00 PM

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