Oakland opens 4 clean air centers to protect unhoused from wildfire smoke, poor air quality

ByLauren Martinez KGO logo
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Oakland opens clean air centers to protect unhoused from smoke
The city of Oakland opened four clean air respite centers for people who are unhoused and unprotected from the poor air quality caused by the smoke from wildfires raging across the region.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The need for clean air is greater than ever in the Bay Area. The city of Oakland opened air respite centers in response to the unhealthy conditions.

On Friday, Oakland opened two clean air centers, Dimond branch library and the North Oakland Senior Center. Since then they added 81st Street Library and St. Vincent de Paul. All four will be open until Sunday.

WATCH: Here's when Bay Area air quality will improve and rain may move in

The smoke certainly will continue to bring the Bay Area's air quality into the unhealthy category and poor visibility will continue to start our weekend, but Sunday and the days ahead are looking brighter.

Oakland resident Teddie Moorehead came to the Dimond Branch location to charge her devices, use a bathroom and more importantly breath clean air.

"I currently don't have own my own home right now so I didn't want to be stuck outdoors all day and I have asthma. I could start to feel like my breathing was getting a little tight so I decided to come over here," Moorehead said.

Moorehead became homeless at the end of June and now sleeps in a car, exposed to all the smoke outside. On Wednesday, the air quality affected her so much, she left for San Jose.

"It caused me to have a really really bad migraine and it made me sick to my stomach. So my friend said 'Oh I heard it's not great over there, want to come over?' So I took the BART to San Jose," Moorehead said.

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Moorehead currently has a job with Trybe, a community based nonprofit that helps her with food and other supplies she may need. She's hoping her current situation of living out of car will only last one more month.

"I have some money saved so we're looking into a place to move into so hopefully that will happen soon," Moorehead said.

Moorehead was open and positive about sharing her story. "My grandmother used to say that you should always look for the light no matter how dark it is so I remember that so no matter how hard things get over time that I always look for the light at the end the good out of the dark so. It always helped me- keeps me staying positive," Moorehead said.

Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan sent out a press release on Sept. 11, where she stated the city cannot ignore that many are without adequate shelter and clean air spaces. In the press release it stated "not everyone has access to the resources needed in this challenging situation. Unfortunately, to date, the city has yet to open clean air centers."

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The city did end up opening clean air centers, but Kaplan is disappointed it took this long.

"I absolutely am frustrated that it took the administration this long to open something up. I asked for it on the record in June and July," Kaplan said.

"I think sometimes people who have it better forget that in past years on bad air days sometimes people would go into a library or go into a movie theatre, and now those are all closed," Kaplan said.

She scheduled a public report for the council meeting on Sept. 15.

"When I saw they still hadn't opened them by August, I scheduled a public report to come to council next Tuesday, so we can get clear what's going on," Kaplan said.

WATCH:Bay Area shrouded in smoke as Northern California wildfires rage

From Oakland to Point Reyes, smoke enveloped the Bay Area as fires scorched Northern California.