Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 10, 2015

Count on me

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Tomorrow night the City Council is going to hear the results on a one day homeless count that was performed in Alameda last September.   Some of the findings from the staff presentation:

• A total of 17 persons were identified as being homeless, and of that number 8 were interviewed, and an additional 9 were observed but were not interviewed.
• Of the 8 interviewed, 5 indicated they were chronically homeless – that is, either continuously homeless for a year or more, or homeless more than four times over a three year period. Among this group mental health issues also seemed apparent. 3 of the 8 indicated they are veterans.
• The Alameda Food Bank was used by 4 of the 8 individuals interviewed. Several also mentioned they had used the hospital/emergency services several times.

The count was done in response to community concerns that the number of visible homeless individuals had increased over the years.  I think the one thing missing in this document is the distinction between visible homeless aka the people you see on the streets and the invisible homeless meaning families and individuals that may be living out of their cars, in shelters, or doubled or tripled up.  While this type of homelessness is largely shielded from the general public, it doesn’t mean that it is any less concerning than the visible homelessness that is more in your face.

This topic is particularly timely as, recently, a homeless encampment at the Jean Sweeny Beltline parcel was cleared out.  Based on the “Next Steps” of the presentation it’s not clear if Alameda has a protocol for encampment removal.   On this topic I wanted to point out two interesting homelessness related items, first in San Francisco earlier this year the Navigation Center was launched to move entire encampments from public (or private) land and immediately begin to triage and provide services in a place these encampments residents felt “safe,” from KALW:

The Navigation Center isn’t like an on-demand shelter, where once you leave the building, you have to go to the back of the line to get back in. Here, people can claim their own space and come and go as they please. People leave their phones out to charge, along with piles of clothes and sentimental items. They talk about being treated like adults, and appreciating it.

“There was just a sense of relief that people had, going, ‘my things are here, my partner’s here, my dog is here,’ and yet still I can access a range of services,” says Bevan Dufty, who’s spearheading the project for the Mayor’s Office of Housing Opportunity Partnerships and Engagement.

The services he’s talking about include case management, and direct access to benefits. There are at least four agencies on site.

“Getting on general assistance here in San Francisco can take six weeks and four appointments, so we’re going to be able to accomplish that in one week,” Dufty says. “So that’s pretty dramatic.”

Let me be clear that I don’t believe that Alameda’s visible homelessness problem is so large that it requires an undertaking on the level of the Navigation Center, but Alameda could take lessons from San Francisco and streamline access to benefits and provide case management services, but, more importantly: housing.

The second thing I wanted to post was a study commissioned by the County of Santa Clara that concluded that the cheapest way to solve homelessness was by simply providing housing, from Mother Jones:

An extensive new study of the county’s homelessness crisis, published yesterday, finds that the most cost-effective way to address the problem is to provide people with homes. Those findings echo a similar approach that’s been successfully adopted in Utah,

They found that much of the public costs of homelessness stemmed from a small segment of this population who were persistently homeless, around 2,800 people. Close to half of all county expenditures were spent on just five percent of the homeless population, who came into frequent contact with police, hospitals, and other service agencies, racking up an average of $100,000 in costs per person annually. Those costs quickly add up—overall, Santa Clara communities spend $520 million in homeless services every year.

The study also highlights solutions. The researchers examined Destination: Home’s program, which has housed more than 800 people in the past five years. The study looked at more than 400 of these housing recipients, a fifth of whom were part of the most expensive cohort. Before receiving housing, they each averaged nearly $62,500 in public costs annually. Housing them cost less than $20,000 per person—an annual savings of more than $42,000.

Naturally there has to be the public will (and the financing) to build that housing and I imagine that Santa Clara County is not unlike most jurisdictions where very-low, low, and housing for the formerly homeless are probably the three most difficult types of housing to win approval.

Anyway, I imagine a lot of quiet murmuring and speechifying about the need to care for the most vulnerable in the community, it would be a nice change if there were actual solutions put into place other than encampment displacement and a glossy brochure.


  1. It is nice when the cheapest solution is also the most humane. It makes it interesting to watch the anti-homeless as they try coming up with reasons that don’t make them sound like monsters.

    Cue the filibuster by good intentions, the crocodile tears, the earnest brochure and PowerPoint presentations, followed by bureaucratic inertia.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — June 10, 2015 @ 6:25 am

  2. There are some folks living on the beach right accross from McDonald’s in the thickest part of the bushes. I have noticed activity there for the last few weeks when wallking shoreline

    Comment by JohnB — June 10, 2015 @ 7:53 am

  3. 1: Jack is correct. Providing shelter is also the best first step in helping people deal with homelessness itself as well as with addiction, mental illness, and other issues closely allied with homelessness and a lack of engagement with society.

    Lauren raises significant points here:

    How many people are “camping out” on friends’ or relatives’ couches, sleeping in RVs, and otherwise unable to afford a place of their own?

    How many people are being driven out of Alameda or the Bay Region because of the regional housing shortage and the (sometimes artificially) rising rents?

    What can be done to limit the sharp–and often successive–rent increases of 20-35 per cent per year being imposed by
    Bay Area landlords–without commensurate improvements to the rental units themselves?

    How can we limit unfair evictions and 60-day “notices to vacate” being given simply so landlords can repaint a unit and raise the rent by 35 per cent?

    A “free market” transaction can only really work if both buyer and seller have relatively similar power in the transaction. Landlords and housing providers now have the overwhelming advantage legally, financially, and in other ways, so there can be no “free market” and no such thing as a “fair” market rate.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — June 10, 2015 @ 8:03 am

  4. I know a number of our elder buildings/plumbing on the Point and elsewhere are beyond repair, but do we have any old schools, barracks or park changing rooms that could be repurposed for showering and cleanup? Perhaps sharing a site that is only used part of a day, then sits idle for several hours?

    Comment by Li_ — June 10, 2015 @ 8:14 am

  5. If we don’t Li_ there’s always this option too, great San Francisco start-up: Lava Mae.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 10, 2015 @ 8:17 am

  6. #3 Why are people called “lords” or “ladies”?

    Comment by A Neighbor — June 10, 2015 @ 8:17 am

  7. I do my Beach Walk every morning at 5:30 AM. There are Beach people several of whom have been there for years. There are also many people who sleep in their cars and most likely have jobs but can’t afford rent. Most interesting is the ‘rolling suitcase guy’ at SS Starbucks early with his laptop he always is clean and seems to have kept himself together through all of it.

    Comment by frank m — June 10, 2015 @ 8:29 am

  8. #6 = I think it’s because, in olden times, you could only be in the House of Lords if you were a landowner. Hence lords are landowners. Those who are not landowners, are not lords. you know, Lord of the Manor, and all that rot…

    Comment by vigi — June 10, 2015 @ 9:22 am

  9. @7 = This is the counter-argument to transit utopians who claim that those who live in affordable housing are less likely to own cars. Anyone who has ever had to live in their car would never give it up in a time of housing uncertainty. If I think there is any chance of being evicted from my lodging, my car is the last thing I’m giving up, because I never know when I might have to go back to living in it.

    Comment by vigi — June 10, 2015 @ 9:29 am

  10. Why do you all assume that all the so called “homeless” would rather be in a shelter than on the “street”? That may not be the case according to:

    Comment by jack — June 10, 2015 @ 9:51 am

  11. Who is making the assumption that homeless folks would rather be in a shelter than on the street? Going to an emergency shelter is vastly different than being sheltered (housed).

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 10, 2015 @ 10:21 am

  12. You are. I read your post again and I seen nothing about “emergency” shelters. The overlying assumption in your post is that the homeless want homes yet it’s clear that in many cases they just want to be left alone.

    Comment by jack — June 10, 2015 @ 10:54 am

  13. You posted a google question about whether homeless people would rather be in a shelter or homeless. A “shelter” is an emergency shelter with restrictions on when people can leave and when they have to arrive. Generally emergency shelters require people to be separated from their pets. They’re also segregated by gender so if you have a partner of the opposite gender you will have to separate. So when it comes to the decision between an emergency shelter and the streets, some people would prefer the streets.

    Having a permanent residence where you can do whatever you want in the privacy of your own space is not a “shelter” per your google search.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 10, 2015 @ 11:00 am

  14. Okay, I understand and it makes sense to have some sort of privacy and permanence.

    Comment by jack — June 10, 2015 @ 11:37 am

  15. …..a permanent residence where you can do whatever you want in the privacy of your own space ….

    Where can I find one of this without hard work and sacrifices?.

    Comment by Flow — June 10, 2015 @ 2:19 pm

  16. I’ll point out that, from the count:

    3 of the 8 indicated they are veterans.

    Lots of people become homeless not because they don’t work hard or they don’t sacrifice, it’s because they can no longer afford to house themselves. Or because there are mental health issues. Or because they lose their jobs. Or because any number of reasons that don’t involve being lazy or complacent.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 10, 2015 @ 2:33 pm

  17. …..a permanent residence where you can do whatever you want in the privacy of your own space ….there are some VERY humble accommodations which meet that definition. Still we get inference of “welfare queens” etc. Ever slept under a bridge ?

    Comment by MI — June 10, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

  18. It just never fails to amaze me when some moron assumes that homelessness is a lazy “issue”- I have come close a few times and I have worked hard since I was 14 years old and have 3 college degrees. I have known a lot of people who have come close and none of them were lazy or shiftless including women with degrees who did everything right and then it was gone due to any variety of events including divorce, death, sick children or spouse, job loss, accidents- anyone who thinks that it can’t happen to them is deluding themselves. Sometimes it is drug use or mental illness- but most of the time- it is not and should not be assumed to be so.
    dog whistle anyone?

    Comment by librarycat — June 10, 2015 @ 2:53 pm

  19. 16
    What’s the significance of singling out veterans?

    Comment by jack — June 10, 2015 @ 3:18 pm

  20. There are 2 kinds of homeless people: the ones that library cat mentions and the street bums that pollute San Francisco.

    The former generally avail themselves of services and pull their way out of a bind. The latter are the ones who refuse help and panhandle/poop/pee on the street and engage in a lot of theft.

    San Francisco is Exhibit A in how to attract the latter with spending on “services” and “compassion.” If we do that here, all we will accomplish is raising our bum population and helping neighboring cities lower theirs. I nominate Bayport as the location of our New Homeless Industrial Complex.

    Comment by Reality Bites — June 10, 2015 @ 3:42 pm

  21. What’s the significance of singling out veterans?

    Because the idea that veterans (1) don’t work hard or (2) haven’t made sacrifices because they are homeless is pretty abhorrent.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 10, 2015 @ 3:43 pm

  22. $165,000,000, more than $20,000 per and the streets are still full of them. The best thing we can do here is send our dollars to SF’s Homeless Industrial Complex, not build our own.

    Comment by Reality Bites — June 10, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

  23. Homeless people already exist in Alameda. You just don’t see them because they aren’t visible and they don’t fit your stereotype

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 10, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

  24. Observations

    There used to be a huge colony of wayfarers behind Target in Emeryville along Beach St. Must have been fifty or more tents and other throw-together living quarters. Looked like a nice thriving pleasant rag-tag group. Lots of pets, lots of females lots of every type human being. Used to drive Beach St to get to Emeryville where one of my kids lives. Went the same route last Sunday and not one person was there. I guess the ‘authorities’ removed the whole kit and caboodle.

    Other place I’ve noted is under the I-80 at Gilman. The colony there looks hard bitten and dangerous. From what I’ve noted (go to Pyramid Brewery on Gilman when my keg runs dry) they’re mostly middle upper age white males. Look like what we used to call ‘bums’ back when I was a kid. Sometimes you see them straggling up Gillman with carts. Doubt there’s much of anything society can do to rescue them from themselves.

    Other place I’ve noted a huge number of (it’s difficult to name groups of people of this nature without being called some sort of bigot) neer-do-wells is in Vancouver BC. Totally amazed me the first time we were there to catch a cruise ship (back around 2001 I think). We wandered off the beaten path near Gastown and ran into a macro colony of the worst and scariest human beings I’ve ever seen. Been there every year since and although there’re still remnants of the past and a lot of beggars it’s a lot less intimidating.

    Comment by jack — June 10, 2015 @ 3:55 pm

  25. There seems to be recent growth of camps under and along 880. They tend to be relatively young and healthy, at least the ones I’ve noticed. Some even sport REI gear and clothes. Could these be your former Beach St. friends, jack?

    Comment by dave — June 10, 2015 @ 4:05 pm

  26. 15. …..a permanent residence where you can do whatever you want in the privacy of your own space ….
    Where can I find one of this without hard work and sacrifices?.

    >>>You could inherit it. Perhaps some commenters on here can share some tips on how to do this.

    Comment by BMac — June 10, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

  27. Could be. But not the ones near the tube entrance from Oakland. Same type though, lots of fancy tents, sleeping bags and stuff. Looked like a decent enough colony. Too bad they left. Couple were always at the Home Depot entrance panhandling in a nice sort of way, usually with a cute dog or cat.

    Comment by jack — June 10, 2015 @ 5:01 pm

  28. I’m thrilled that our initial attempt at putting parameters on Alameda’s homeless population has caused such terrific discussion, both here and on other forums as well. To me the most gripping tale of the numbers is that we really do have the ability to end homelessness in our community. It would take a lot of creative thinking, sharing of resources, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility to find housing for 12-17 people.

    Comment by Doug Biggs — June 10, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

  29. Works in Utah.

    “How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.”

    Comment by jack — June 10, 2015 @ 5:57 pm

  30. Thing is, what responsible landlord is going to rent to a homeless person? To answer my own question, I was, what now might be considered a slumlord, for about 20 years in Alameda. Rented chopped up Victorians to the lowest income almost homeless Alamedans. I never had a renter that didn’t pay on time. But that was then.

    Comment by jack — June 10, 2015 @ 7:12 pm

  31. @18. Saying you have worked hard since 14 is positive but telling everyone you have 3 college degrees works against you unless the 3 degrees equal a PHD

    Comment by Flow — June 10, 2015 @ 10:39 pm

  32. wtf?

    Comment by MI — June 11, 2015 @ 8:07 am

  33. 33 is directed at 32

    Comment by MI — June 11, 2015 @ 8:08 am

  34. I donknow, maybe the first two didn’t take.

    Comment by jack — June 11, 2015 @ 9:33 am

  35. When a person tells me he/she has 3 college degrees, these questions come to mine…
    Why it took three when others took one to be educated?
    Is the person avoiding the outside world/responsibilty by being a professional student?
    Why three majors….doesn’t he/she knows what he/she wants?

    Isn’t the goal is to finish college, get out into the job market, make money enough to accomplish ones goals.

    Comment by Flow — June 11, 2015 @ 11:33 am

  36. I worked full time at jobs and my career – the entire time that I was earning those degrees and they were an AA, BS and a masters (all in science). I did not have the luxury of anyone to pay for my education so I did it for myself.
    Still not the point of my comment but whatever…such an odd thing to focus on.

    Comment by librarycat — June 11, 2015 @ 12:43 pm

  37. There was at least one three degree involved in this project.

    Click to access ArchNewsMay2015.pdf

    Comment by Gerard L. — June 11, 2015 @ 11:00 pm

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