Unhoused crisis in Alameda Co. leads supervisors to declare state of emergency: Here's what next

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
Unhoused crisis declared state of emergency in Alameda Co.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to declare homelessness a state of emergency.

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Alameda County supervisors voted to declare a state of emergency on homelessness Tuesday. The declaration could secure additional funding throughout the county as the number of unhoused individuals has shot up by 73% in the last 5 years.

"I have never ever seen it like this in my life. I'm born and raised third generation here. Not only is it inhumane for individuals to live like this, but it's not right for the citizens of Oakland and Alameda County to have to endure these situations," said Oakland community advocate Ken Houston.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors zeroed in on a drastic new step- declaring a county-wide state of emergency on homelessness.

The declaration directs the Office of Homeless Care and Coordination to come up with a response plan in 60 days with specific steps to be taken to address the escalating unhoused crisis.

"The county has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and what has it gotten? It's gotten worse. We need a state of emergency so we can get federal money and state money," Houston said.

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One organization addressed unhoused, cleanliness and safety issues now that the Dreamforce Convention 2023 convention has concluded in San Francisco.

Some of the statistics Alameda County looked at included the high rent burden.

Forty percent of those unhoused have at least one permanent disability- the maximum state disability benefit is just over $1000 a month.

Yet the average studio apartment in Alameda County rents is more than $1,500.

That gap forces many into homelessness as does substance abuse.

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The county says "Alameda County's unhoused population has increased by 22% since 2019, according to the most recent point-in-time count, and 73% of unhoused residents are unsheltered."

The proposal was introduced by Board President Supervisor Nate Miley.

"Homelessness in Alameda County is also a racial justice issue. While Alameda County is approximately 10% Black/African-American, about 43% of the homeless population in the County is Black/African-American," the county said in a press release before the vote.

"I introduced this resolution because the number of people experiencing homelessness is surging, creating dangerous, inhumane situations across the County. The most recent Point-In-Time Count identified nearly 10,000 people experiencing homelessness in every corner of the County," said Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley in the press release. "Between 2018 and 2021, over 1,100 Alameda County residents died while experiencing homelessness, a rate 5.8 times greater than the general population. Alameda County is in crisis-this is an emergency, and it's our job to respond accordingly!"

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Second Chance in Newark runs a recovery shelter and they say of state of emergency is long overdue.

Program Director Dan Castro at Second Chance said, "I think we're at the starting point of it with the state of emergency, but it will take a while to trickle down. Somebody waiting on their next meal can't wait on red tape to eat."

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