Community of Tuff Sheds in Oakland helping homeless get back on their feet

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A community of cabins at 27th and Northgate, behind a barbed wire fence and beneath an overpass in Oakland, were never designed to be home sweet homes.

But postal worker Carmen Randleseon will tell you her place beneath the freeway place sure beats the tent in which she used to live.

"Seven people have moved into apartments from here. I'm next."

RELATED: Oakland set to open third Tuff Shed village

On Wednesday, Oakland opened a fifth so-called community cabin site as an alternative to homeless camps.

"The community is voluntary," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. "We cannot force anybody to move in here, however, if they decline the invitation we will force them to move outside the area."

This new site sits in a dusty, noisy Cal Trans Maintenance yard beneath the 880 Interchange. The small structures will provide housing for some 76 people who had been living in tents nearby. It's the latest step in a social experiment by Oakland's Director of Human Services Sara Bedford.

"I talked to people who said, 'I could never have gone from my tent straight to a housing unit. I needed this interim step."

Each of the units looks a lot like a tuff shed with a window and a bed. Residents sign up for six months of shelter and services. It will not be time spent idly.

"We provide wrap-around services for substance abuse, mental health, services, job training," said Oakland's Sara Boyd.

"This is a moral imperative. People are not healthy without shelter," added Mayor Schaaf. "We live in the world's wealthiest region."

RELATED: History of how many people are homeless in the Bay Area

Roughly 3,000 people sleep on the streets of Oakland. Carmen Randleseon is grateful that she will no longer be one of them.

"When you look back at this in 10 or 15 years, will the memories be good or bad?" we asked.

"A good memory. Something good come out it. It's a good thing."

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