Leaders push to build homeless housing on Oakland church properties

OAKLAND, Calif. – Some startling pictures of children living on the streets of Oakland are pushing local leaders to speed up a new project to house the homeless on church properties. Now congregations and the community are stepping up to find help, fast.

The images depict the severity of the homeless crisis in Oakland. Small children, living in a tent on East 12th and 23rd have inadequate shelter, little to no clothes and at no fault of their own they're sleeping outside in cold, rainy conditions.  It's simply heartbreaking.

“When I saw the kids, two 3 year old kids there homeless my heart just fell out. I don’t have words to express. I have four kids and seven grandkids. I couldn't imagine my kids being homeless out there like that,” said Reverend Ken Chambers, of West Side Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland and the president of the Interfaith Council of Alameda County. 

Reverend Ken Chambers took the photos, as Oakland Police advised their mother about resources available to them. Shelters are open to families like hers, but with 4,000 homeless people citywide the need for more resources is insurmountable. 

“We’re looking to do a million-dollar budget for our first year of helping homeless to serve about 1,000 people,” said Chambers.

The Interfaith Council of Alameda County invited Oakland city leaders and community members to a meeting Thursday at Oakland's Mormon Temple to get the ball rolling on a project that will provide safe shelters like shipping containers and tiny homes, to be placed on various church properties in the community.

Sheds or shelters like the ones at 6th and Castro in Oakland are already up and running, with many people calling them home. What the Interfaith Council of Alameda County is looking to do is similar to this project but they say they want to do it more efficiently.

“One of the issues that we're working to resolve is how you have utility connections if you're putting a bunch of new units up, and so we're strategizing about how to use solar power and other alternatives so they can be put in locations where you don't have hookups,” said Oakland Councilmember at large, Rebecca Kaplan.

So far one shelter has been built, located at West Side Missionary Baptist church. The goal is to have several hundred more, spread throughout the county, by the end of the year.