Union Point on the Rise soon to be Oakland’s first co-governed cabin community
on November 1, 2021
Every Tuesday members of Union Point on the Rise, a community of 16 unhoused folks, gather on the patio of their current residence, the Travel Inn on MacArthur Boulevard. In a circle of mismatched chairs, they discuss the design, management, and regulations of their future home at Lakeview Village — the first co-governed housing encampment in Oakland.
Spanning the block of 12th Street between First and Second avenues, Lakeview Village is a project to move 65 unhoused neighbors into temporary cabin shelters that the city purchased from Pallet. Unlike most cabin community structures, these shelters include locks, are connected to electricity, and are single occupancy units.
The site is divided into two distinct communities separated by a chain-link fence: a 55-unit community run by the Housing Consortium of the East Bay that will open as early as next week, and UPOR’s 16-unit co-governed community that may not open until next year.
Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas held an open house for the site Monday, inviting reporters and neighbors to tour. She announced the formation of a community council for Lakeview Village, where organizations and residents of both sites can gather and talk about the community.
The city is excited to launch a co-governed model, which empowers residents to be in control of their community and provides them with management skills. The model requires more planning than traditional shelters and strong community ties to be successful.
“One of the things that I think is really critical for co-governed encampments is the fact that there’s an established community that is in a relationship together,” Bas said in an earlier interview.
Co-governed encampments empower residents while removing the threat of displacement. Residents come to an agreement about how they will live in a community setting, selecting leaders, managing the site, developing community expectations, and determining who participates.
“The residents are in the driver’s seat,” said Adam Garrett-Clark, the founder of Tiny Logic, which acts as a support for operations and a pass through for money, and holds insurance for UPOR. Tiny Logic will be in the passenger’s seat, with the city taking a back seat.
A case study on co-governance done by the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, found it can be attractive for a variety of reasons. Existing shelters may not provide the flexibility for many, including couples, residents with pets, or people who work nights. Additionally, individuals may feel restricted with no control over shelter policies and regulations.
“My dogs, they’re my babies, they’re my children. I can’t let go of them,” said Lucy Brum, a member of UPOR. Unlike typical shelters, at Lakeview, residents can have up to three dogs.
Strict visiting policies also have prevented Brum from living in shelters. “That’s what keeps you alive. Having friends and having people come to see you,” she said.
The community decided to call itself Union Point on the Rise because it initially was a group of people living along the waterfront in Union Point Park. Member Mike Newman said some people lived at the park for 10 or more years, and that he had met many of them prior to being unhoused. They developed strong ties, looking out for each other, preventing stealing and maintaining security within the community.
This unity prompted the park residents to resist eviction in February. They came up with a list of demands and eventually reached an agreement with the city to get temporary housing in hotel rooms until a location could be provided, where they could reside as a community for three to five years.
Bas pushed to use the long vacant public parcel by Lake Merritt to address urgent housing needs, while the developer of a long-delayed housing development attempts to secure financing by Feb. 15. If the financing comes through, construction could start as early as next year, in which case the city has promised to relocate all the residents of Lakeview Village.
On the larger tract, Housing Consortium of the East Bay will provide its residents with trauma-informed services and harm reduction services around three key areas: health, mental health, and substance issues. Case workers will help residents find jobs and permanent housing. The site has its own address, alleviating issues unhoused people face when applying for jobs or services.
The city allocated $350,000 to UPOR to design the site, which residents decided to put toward showers and a central communal dome with a kitchen, Garrett-Clark said.
Some aspects of the project, though, have been out of the residents’ control. The shelter designs are much smaller than what they requested.
“It’s like we’re living in a closet,” said UPOR member Deanna Riley.
And Riley also is unhappy with the site selection, because her son was murdered across the street.
“I have to relive this every day, and it’s not right,” she said. “But where else do I have to go?”
During the weekly UPOR meeting, Garrett-Clark asked residents what they thought success looked like for the program. Responses ranged from finding work, to getting permanent housing, to creating a model that can be replicated for future groups.
“I’m hoping to get permanent housing. This is a stepping stone,” Newman said. “I don’t want to go back or regress. I don’t want to go back.”
This story was updated to correct information about Tiny Logic and about the site selection.
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