Oakland opens second 'Tuff Shed' living space for the homeless

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Oakland is opening its second "Tuff Shed" program to house more homeless in small sheds, provide them case managers and clean up the surrounding tent cities, which are litter city streets and cause an eyesore for passersby.

The goal, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, told Mornings on 2 on Monday is to move in 10 people a week until the full occupancy of 40 residents is reached at Northgate and Sycamore streets. Two case managers will be on site. Move-ins begin this week.

There is already a similar Tuff Shed living space at Sixth and Brush streets with 20 sheds. That area opened in December. And with both new alternative housing options, the city then removes the surrounding tent cities and the illegally dumped garbage goes with it. Schaaf also said that eight residents at this site have found permanent housing and 15 have found jobs.

Schaaf touted both areas as the city's innovative way to approaching homelessness and she emphasized that the Northgate sheds are all privately funded. She gave a special shoutout to the Chamber of Commerce, Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente for pitching in on the Northgate project.

"Not a dime of city money is in that Tuff Shed shelter," Schaaf said. At this $1-million site, the construction costs and labor were donated by businesses and volunteers, and the materials have an estimated cost of $175,000.  Onsite staffing costs $550,000 and there's another $125,000 fund to help residents find permanent housing. Caltrans leased the land to the city for a minimal amount, the city said. Kaiser is also funding mobile showers provided by Lava Mae, a group that converts public transportation buses into public showers and toilets. 

It costs about $12,000 a year to provide the sheds, Schaaf said, which is expensive, although there are more costly options out there as well. The goal is to allow residents to live in the shelters for six months before transitioning them to more permanent housing, Schaaf said. 

According to 2017 statewide counts, California’s homeless population stands at 134,278. In Oakland, 1,902 residents are homeless and more than 800 more live in shelters, per the 2017 point-in-time count and survey by Alameda County.