Homelessness & the Affordability Crisis

Cities all along the West Coast are facing a homelessness crisis. Oakland is solving it in a unique way by bringing stakeholders to end homelessness. 


Cities all along the West Coast are facing an encampment crisis. Oakland is solving it in a unique way.

We're bringing together issue area experts, public health professionals, corporate partners, service providers, and City staff to move people off sidewalks and into services. These relationships play a crucial role in how we develop and evaluate our approach to end homelessness.

Homelessness Strategies Currently Underway in Oakland


  • Formed an Encampment Management Team led by the City Administrator’s Office, which includes of representatives from many city departments. This coordination team meets every other week to map out a cleaning and intervention schedule for encampments. The Oakland Police Department (OPD) has three officers dedicated to managing encampments. These officers work closely with Public Works cleaning crews to ensure that the required work is undertaken safely.
  1. We have established sanitation stations at 13 locations near encamped areas.
  2. We have been working with our County Public Health partners on the following:
  • Funding for 10 additional sanitation station locations. The County is responsible for Public Health, Mental Health and Behavioral Health services. Those are County departments.
  • Implementing a Hep A vaccine program for those living in encampments. There are no reported cases in Alameda County
  • Vector control
  • Funding and County land for another temporary outdoor shelter
  • The County provides one mobile health unit that visits several encamped areas each week.
  1. Weekly garbage pick-up at 12-15 encampment sites and deeper cleaning/debris removal at 2-4 sites per week.
  2. Opened one temporary Outdoor Shelter Site, which serves up to 40 homeless people at any one time (we expect to open another in May 2018). These sites offer:
  • Structures, such as Tuff Sheds, which house two people, basic sanitary services such as porta--potties, hand washing stations and garbage service, privacy of unit, 24/7 site security, and limited storage,
  • Limited food service (breakfast and dinner) and access to mobile showers,
  • Services e.g., housing navigation and linkage to mobile health care and mental health, and other services,
  • The City Council allocated funding = $450,000 for operation of the first site. Private-Public partnerships and donations have been key to getting the initial site up and running. Donations include site preparation, Tuff Sheds, cots, bedding. The second site, including operational funding, is funded almost entirely by donations.
  • A total of 47 individuals have been served
  • 8 people have moved from the site and into transitional or permanent housing
  • 15 individuals have secured employment
  • 33 have participated in housing tours
  • 15 people received California ID cards
  • 10 individuals are connected to a permanent medical home at the West Oakland Health Center
  • The surrounding six-block encampment area - once one of Oakland's largest – was resolved, the area was thoroughly cleaned, and the Oakland police have maintained an 18-block no camping zone surrounding the outdoor shelter.

Four months into the pilot program at Site #1 (opened 12/4/17):

  1. Emergency Winter Shelter – opened Nov. 15, 100+ spaces most in West Oakland and some in East Oakland. We added additional capacity to make more space available. Winter Shelter usually closes on April 15th. This year 65 beds will remain open until mid-June.


  • Oakland City Council allocated $14 million to acquire a building that could be renovated and used as a second multi-service center, similar to the existing Henry Robinson Center, which serves about 300 people annually. City staff negotiated the purchase of an SRO-type building for this purpose. It will serve about 140 people annually. That transaction was approved by the City Council Committee on April 10th.
  • We are also working to develop a “Safe Parking” program with several churches that are interested in providing parking on their property.


The answer to homelessness is housing. Housing people who have been homeless for quite some time and have multiple barriers that make stable housing difficult for them, is complicated and expensive given the intensive services many need to help them remain in housing. There are simply not enough supportive and deeply subsidized units for the number of people in need.

How did we get here? In the Bay Area, we have added just one unit of housing for every eight jobs that have been created during the last decade.

This chart indicates the challenged we faced in building affordable housing after Governor Brown eliminated Redevelopment funds in 2011, which were the primary source of funding for cities to building affordable housing. With new City and County bond revenues passed in late 2016, we can increase production, but the deficit of units we and most cities in CA face, is substantial. It’s contributed to the housing affordability crisis far beyond just playing catch up for the last few years as the market rental rates have been rapidly increasing. Data shows that most people who are homeless in Alameda County were county residents before they became homeless.

Units Completed 2013-present

Completed 2013

Completed 2014

Completed 2015

Completed 2016

Under Construction


Projected Units from Measure KK (1st tranche)

30% AMI







50% AMI







60% AMI







Total Units








Project Pipeline for Affordable Units

Type of Project

# of Units

# of Affordable Units

New Construction completed in 2017



Under construction



New Construction Pipeline



Site Acquisition









OPD is an active participant in encampment management. The sergeant in charge of this team coordinates with the area commanders, who assign patrol officers to enforce no camping areas, once an encamped area has been resolved. Thus far, there are not as many resolved areas as we would like, but we are focused on the largest encampments first, e.g. 6th and Brush, Northgate, and others. The patrol officers work exclusively on issues related to encampments. While I understand your frustration with the City’s response, we are doing all we can with the resources we have, and leveraging more resources from the County and private donors. This is one of the things that I focus on every day, as do a cross-departmental team of other city staff.