New Oakland development to provide housing for former prisoners

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A new housing project is aimed at helping people recently released from prison, by offering them a roof over their heads and resources to get back on their feet.

The Hope Re-Entry campus is being built on MacArthur Ave. in East Oakland, at the site of a former charter school.

Housing will be offered to men who are returning from prison. They'll have onsite access to services, including job training, advanced education, and drug treatment, to help them reintegrate into the community.  

The project will begin with an initial 14 units, with each unit providing housing for two people. The goal goal is to increase the capacity to 44 units over the next year, according to officials with Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS). 

For the project, the Berkeley-based housing group is teaming up with the Center of Hope Community Church in East Oakland and local architectural firm Design Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS).

"The Hope Re-Entry Project will create a holistic community-of-care campus that seeks to break the barriers to re-entry that many men and women face as they get back on their feet," DJDS officials said.

Project leaders said for those who have been released from prison, finding a home is a key, integral step toward getting their lives in order. 

"Individuals returning from jail or prison often have nowhere to go, especially in Bay Area's tight housing market," said Donald Frazier, executive director of BOSS. "We know that the quicker someone gets into housing, the higher their chances of getting a job and staying out of jail. It's the essential ingredient individuals need as they work to rebuild their lives," Frazier added.

The campus is going up in a neighborhood that is often overlooked by developers and has long struggled with poverty and crime. In addition to helping former inmates, officials said the project also seeks to serve as an investment into that community's future. 

"Imagine neighborhoods currently riddled with crime, pollution, poorly performing schools and predatory lending institutions transformed into opportunity zones with parks, good schools, jobs, grocery stores, and quality housing," said Frazier. "It's not a pipe dream, but a future we can create. Bad policies and lack of investment creates poverty – good policies and investments can end it."