Oakland CARES Act: Workforce Development Program for Neighborhood Beautification and Homelessness

BEAUTIFICATION COUNCIL Inspires and Empowers Unsheltered Residents to Clean Homeless Encampments

Posted: February 10th, 2021 2:20 PM

Last Updated: March 16th, 2021 5:05 PM

Grant Program Overview

Many areas of Oakland with the highest cases of COVID-19 are also areas known to experience high rates of illegal dumping. Unhoused individuals face unique risks of contracting the virus when exposed to illegally dumped materials at or near encampments.

Through a $175,000 CARES Act grant from Oakland Public Works (OPW), the Beautification Council (BC) - an Oakland not-for-profit organization - implemented Operation COVID-19 Mitigation to provide micro-cleaning and sanitization to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the encampments identified by OPW for maintenance and sanitation service.

BC crews, consisting of stipend unsheltered residents from the encampments themselves, performed the micro-cleaning and sanitization as a complement to OPW's Homeless Encampment Enhanced Garbage Service.

Upon OPW Enhanced Garbage Service crew removing the bulk of the waste material at an encampment's garbage pick-up site, BC crews micro-cleaned the area by removing smaller pieces of debris left behind (i.e. face masks, rubber gloves, needles, diapers, etc.), then sanitized and disinfected the area using hydrogen peroxide, an EPA and CDC-approved disinfectant for COVID-19.

Staff included a Hazmat and Safety Subject Matter Expert, a Homeless Communications Working Liaison, Work Coordinator/Project Manager, and an Operations Manager along with a stipend labor force of hard-to-employ and unhoused Oakland residents. A Life Skills Coach was later added to provide life skills support to the stipend participants.

In all, the grant provided stipends to 97 unhoused residents who performed clean-ups and sanitization at 52 encampment locations.

Recipient Demographics

Of the 97 unhoused participants who received stipend pay to micro-clean and sanitize homeless encampments, nearly 94% were people of color, of which nearly three-fourths (93%) are blacks and 17.5% are females.

A pie chart showing the percentages of stipend workers based on race.
A pie chart showing the percentages of stipend workers based on race.
A bar graph and table showing the number of stipend workers by race and gender.
A bar graph and table showing the number of stipend workers by race and gender.


“...I approached [Beautification Council] in my search for part-time employment, after I'd heard only positive remarks about the available positions from others in the neighborhood... [Ken Houston of Beautification Council] allowed me to speak, weighed [sic] the possible outcomes and gave me a chance. It may seem small, but Ken has brought a feeling of joy, possibilities and "light" at the end of Tunnel COVID-19.” - LaTreasha "Lamb-Chop" N. McCoy

“I met the Beautification Council when they were helping the homeless...I am now working and seeing a therapist for my depression... I've been homeless for more than 10 years now they make me feel like there's a light at the end of the tunnel we need more people like them [sic]...they have given me inspiration.” - Miss Bell

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