City Looks at Homeless Issues

Alameda’s City Council is committed to working with community partners to address homelessness. The city supports the CARES for Alameda’s Homeless team (Collaboration Advancing Research, Efforts and Support). This business, nonprofit and public partnership explores and implements strategies to reach, support and resolve the Island’s homelessness challenges.  

Every other year, the city participates in EveryOne Counts!, Alameda County’s effort to conduct a Point-In-Time (PIT) count of the local homeless population. This count informs local strategic planning, investment, capacity building and advocacy campaigns to prevent and end homelessness. 

On Jan. 30, Alameda assembled an enthusiastic group of volunteers to facilitate this biennial count, including elected officials, staff and community members, who worked with trained guides who have lived experiences.  

The team counted 8,022 people experiencing homelessness in Alameda County, an increase of 43 percent from the PIT count two years ago, and the highest increase among Bay Area counties. Twenty-seven additional homeless people were counted in the City of Alameda, an increase of 13 percent from 204 to 231 homeless individuals since 2017. 

Of the 231 people experiencing homelessness in Alameda, 99 were women and children staying at Midway Shelter and 132 were living in encampments, vehicles and on the street. 

The percentage of those sleeping in tents, cars, vans and recreational vehicles in the county have all seen triple-digit increases of up to 146 percent. For every one homeless person that was housed in Alameda County in the last two years, two more have become homeless. For more about the latest PIT count, see the full report at http://everyonehome.org.  

Current situation
While the Island’s situation is less dramatic compared to neighboring cities, the issue in Alameda is palpable and visible. The safety of the public, including those experiencing homelessness, continues to be a priority for the city while ensuring that it complies with current laws. A 2009 court decision prohibits displacement of homeless individuals from public spaces when no shelter or housing can be offered to them as an alternative. However, when their safety is at issue, posting the site and asking them to move may be necessary. 

Such is the case at an encampment at Estuary Park, where up to 10 people will be asked to move today, Thursday, Aug. 8, as the area will become a construction site for the next phase of Alameda Landing’s development. For everyone’s safety, the city will fence off the area and trespassing will not be allowed. City staff and community partners have developed a plan to provide a compassionate and humane process to support the homeless there during the clearing of the encampment and moving forward. 

Ongoing efforts
The city contracts with Operation Dignity to provide mobile street outreach and case management services to homeless individuals that provide them with immediate welfare and harm-reduction support while working to get people house-ready and housed. The city is also working with Building Futures to provide intensive case management to the most high-risk homeless clients with complex needs in Alameda. Both groups collaborate with the city’s homeless liaison officers to coordinate outreach efforts on the Island. 

In July, Council approved a 2-year contract with the county to implement the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) plan. In 2018, the state established HEAP, a $500 million grant to provide immediate emergency assistance to counties and cities experiencing homelessness in California. 

The City of Alameda’s allocation of $756,524 in HEAP grant funds will be used for a variety of projects, including a one-stop shop day center to provide refuge for the homeless during the day while connecting them to services and information, designated safe parking areas for those living in cars, the warming shelter, monthly dinners, rental assistance, installation of showers at the warming shelter, a homeless hotline and more. 

For more about these efforts to address homelessness in Alameda, see www.alamedaca.gov/homeless.