Delivering Dignity to Alameda’s Unsheltered Community

Delivering Dignity to Alameda’s Unsheltered Community

We got the money! Last month I reported that Alameda applied for a $12.3 million Homekey grant from California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Good news: Our application was successful!

Residents often ask, “What is Alameda doing about homelessness?” These grant funds help answer that question. Alameda will use this money to construct Dignity Village, which includes 46 modular units of transitional supportive housing, and an additional unit for an onsite manager. Up to 61 homeless adults — individuals and couples — will have their own rooms with private bathrooms, and access to on-site “wraparound services.” These services include being connected to medical care, mental health services, and substance abuse treatment, help finding employment, and assistance securing and maintaining permanent housing.

Dignity Village, and similar projects, will also help to significantly reduce homelessness in the Bay Area. That’s because this transitional, or interim, housing is an important element of the All Home Regional Action Plan (RAP) to reduce unsheltered homelessness in the Bay Area by 75 percent by 2024, through creating permanent solutions, not temporary fixes.

Launched in April 2021 by All Home, a non-profit focused on reducing poverty and homelessness, RAP is based on a “1-2-4 framework.” Specifically, for every unit of interim housing, there should be simultaneous investment in two units of permanent housing, and four units of homelessness prevention programs. This formula is designed to provide permanent housing solutions for unsheltered individuals, while preventing others from becoming homeless. Visit allhomeca.org for more information.

Why does the second element of the RAP formula call for two units of permanent housing for every one unit of interim housing? Because not all individuals who find themselves homeless need wraparound services; they simply need a roof over their head. The permanent housing requirement can be satisfied with new affordable housing contemplated in updates to the Housing Element of our General Plan.

This Housing Element update process is currently underway and will include online and in-person community outreach this summer, public hearings before the Planning Board this fall, and final public hearings before the City Council this November or December.

The third element of the RAP formula — providing four units of homelessness prevention programs for each unit of transitional housing, and two units of permanent housing — will be satisfied, in part, by the non-profit Five Keys Schools and Programs (Five Keys). Based on city staff’s recommendation, the City Council chose Five Keys to administer Dignity Village.

Last fall, accompanied by city staff, I visited three transitional housing sites in San Jose and Mountain View. All three were making admirable progress transitioning individuals and families from unsheltered to interim supportive housing, and then permanent housing. Five Keys’ program, however, was yielding particularly impressive results. For more information on Five Keys, visit fivekeyscharter.org.

Five Keys and the Dignity Village concept were introduced at the Nov.16, 2021 City Council meeting. Five Keys President and CEO Steve Good, an Alameda native and Encinal High School graduate, also discussed Five Keys’ commitment to safety, security, and cleanliness at Dignity Village. A 24-hour hotline will be available to address any immediate concerns, and Five Keys will provide cleaning crews and security. Good also wants to involve the community by convening an advisory committee.

Dignity Village will be built on a parcel, adjacent to the College of Alameda sports field, that was previously owned by the city’s redevelopment agency. Some residents have asked, “Why this location?” and “Why not a site somewhere other than the West End?” The answer is that the cost of building Dignity Village is greatly reduced by using city property, and not having to expend funds to acquire land. Other sites across the City of Alameda can help contribute affordable housing to the RAP 1-2-4 formula.

The city intends to complete Dignity Village in eight months or less because there’s a huge need for this facility, and because we’ll receive a $500,000 bonus from HCD if we do. Alameda is ready to be part of the solution to reducing homelessness in our area!

Be compassionate! Be solution-oriented! Be Alameda Strong!