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    Prioritizing Solutions to Our Homeless Crisis

    By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember At-Large

    As our homeless population continues to grow, it is essential to pledge resources to help our homeless neighbors find safety and shelter. I am dedicated to advocating for an urgent city response to the homeless crisis, including by urging allocation of Measure KK funds (the Infrastructure and Housing Bond Measure passed in November, https://ballotpedia.org/Oakland,_California,_Bond_Issue,_Measure_KK_(November_2016), to purchase existing motel and SRO-type buildings to provide immediate homeless housing and services to help get people off the streets now.

    In addition, I am calling for a City-County partnership (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4k7eaDkAjFzLTVKX1VBV1paZ3c/view) to remedy the large and growing homeless crisis in our community. It is time for Oakland, Alameda County, and our surrounding jurisdictions to take a more effective action—a type of response that is often called “navigation centers”—providing a low barrier-to-entry homeless facility, which includes both living space and social services on site. Oakland already has one such successful facility, the Henry Robinson Center, but with growing demand, we need additional space to help more people.

    Currently, it is hard for many homeless people to use existing shelters, both because they are often full, and many have strict rules for entry that exclude certain people. Other areas are now experimenting with an easier to access model, which allows those camping on our streets and sidewalks to have a safer alternative location to go to where they can stay while receiving services and support and being matched for longer-term housing.

    Just as we must fight against homelessness, we must also fight against displacement of residents from our City. As the result of my amendments to the Code Enforcement Relocation Program (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4k7eaDkAjFzZlc5bzJjVzBYYnM/view), a property owner is responsible for providing relocation payments for those being evicted due to code compliance activities. If the property owner does not provide relocation payments to an eligible tenant, the City can provide the tenant relocation payment, making the property owner responsible to reimburse the City, including placing a lien against the property.

    I am happy to announce that Oakland City Council recently took action to help prevent homelessness and displacement, by voting to allocate $615,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds to the Code Enforcement Relocation Program. It’s not fair to expect struggling tenants, who have lost their homes, to go through the process of suing the property owner for relocation assistance. By the City allocating money for tenants whose landlords have not paid the relocation fees, we are taking strides to keep Oakland residents in our City.

    The work does not end here. We as policy leaders and concerned citizens of the Bay Area must come together to solve the homeless crisis facing our region, and collaborate to help our neighbors most in need.

    Oakland City Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012, and again in 2016. She is working for safe neighborhoods, for local jobs and for a fresh start for Oakland. Councilmember Kaplan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, obtained a master’s degree from Tufts University and a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School.