Fifth cabin community for homeless to open in Oakland next week

A tent city under an overpass on 35th Ave in Oakland has been home to Latasha Hardman for four years.

But she will soon be among 76 homeless people now living in camps along the Oakland-Emeryville border, who are moving next week.

They are moving into a new community of 70 cabins not far on Mandela Parkway.

"Hopefully, it should be better than what it is now. It should a little better," said Hardman.

This will be the largest of five community cabins or 'Tuff Sheds' as some call them. But these new cabins are of better quality.

"They are not by Tuff Shed. That's why we are not calling them Tuff Sheds anymore," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

"We spent months doing outreach with these unsheltered residents learning what their needs are, their desires are."

Caltrans is leasing the lot for just a dollar a month.

And it is offering another incentive. "We have 10 positions at Caltrans I am willing to offer and set aside as opportunities for jobs," said Tony Tavares of Caltrans.

Emeryville is sharing operation costs because some homeless are living there too.

The cabins come with cots, electricity, plumbing on-site and there are social workers assigned to help residents here get more permanent housing.

Of the 250 people who have left the cabins, the city says two-thirds have moved off the street. And about the same have found jobs.

"That means people are getting healthier. They are getting services and the majority are getting housing," said Schaaf.

Critics have called the cabin communities open air prisons and say they are not a solution to the homeless crisis.

But Mayor Schaaf disagrees. "I don't apologize for doing something to lessen human suffering," Schaaf said.

"My ultimate goal is to have my own place," said Hardman.

Another cabin community is expected to be up and running by September.