Oakland mayor proposes navigation center for city's homeless population

OAKLAND (BCN) Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is asking the City Council to approve an outdoor navigation center that she said would move homeless people from encampments into temporary shelter as they wait for permanent housing.

Schaaf said the site, which she hopes would be set up before the rainy season begins and would be the first of up to three in Oakland, would provide up to 40 people with portable "Tuff Shed" living structures and access to wrap-around social services in one secured location.

Schaaf said her plan is to move people off sidewalks and into safety and services.

"Homeless encampments are not healthy for anyone, least of all the people living in them," Schaaf said in a statement.

The mayor said, "Getting people into housing is hard and complicated work, but an outdoor navigation center will allow us to take the first step with an Oakland approach: at the speed of compassion and capacity."

Schaaf's proposal was presented at the City Council's Life Enrichment Committee meeting late this afternoon and is scheduled to go to the full council in October.

Schaaf said the outdoor navigation centers would mark a temporary solution until the city opens a new rapid-housing facility and are modeled after the Henry Robinson Center at 559 16th Street, which is staffed by Bay
Area Community Services.

She said 87 percent of nearly 300 clients who lived at the Henry Robinson facility last year now live in permanent housing.

The first proposed outdoor navigation center would provide up to 40 people a temporary "Tuff Shed" living structure for up to six months, portable toilets, showers, and sanitary living conditions, on-site social services to help clients transition into housing and employment and a secured environment around the clock with access limited to authorized personnel.

Schaaf said she is also exploring partnerships with non-profit and volunteer groups to support the outdoor navigation centers. She said private partners have expressed interest in financing the cost of the "Tuff Sheds"
and support services.

Schaaf said, "Attacking this problem calls for an all-hands-on-deck solution. For the health, safety, and livability of all Oakland residents, we need to attack the cost of living crisis both in the long term and in the right now - and this proposal addresses the immediate encampment crisis."

A report by City Administrator Sabrina Landreth lists four possible locations for navigation centers:
  --34th Street and Mandela Parkway, which is an unused Caltrans parcel that is paved, fenced and is about 46,000 square feet.
    --3831 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, a city-owned lot that's slated for future development of affordable housing units and is about 10,000 square feet.
    --East 12th Street and 23rd Avenue, a city-owned remainder parcel that's about 64,000 square feet and already has a homeless encampment on it.
    --6th Street between Castro and Brush streets, a 54,000-square foot parcel that's zoned for residential use and was recently sold by Caltrans to a private party. It's bordered by and adjacent to one of the largest homeless encampments in Oakland.
   

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