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A homeless man walks towards a tent in a encampment behind the Chinese Garden Park in Oakland on Saturday, October 1, 2016. (Yesica Prado/Oakland North)

County supervisors declare homelessness emergency: ‘We’ve been working incredibly hard on addressing the crisis.’

on September 22, 2023

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted for the first time on Tuesday to declare a state of emergency regarding the homelessness crisis, a move that could unlock additional state and federal resources.  

Four of the five supervisors approved the declaration, with Lena Tam absent. 

The declaration directs the Alameda County Health Services Office of Homelessness Care and Coordination to meet with cities and relevant agencies to draft an emergency response plan to the supervisors within 60 days. 

The decision comes as the county grapples with a skyrocketing homeless population. The most recent point-in-time count, a one-night tally of this population last year, showed 9,747 unhoused people, a 22% increase since 2019 according to county estimates. As many as 15,000 people face homelessness at certain times of the year, according to the 2022 count.

The average life expectancy for Alameda County’s unsheltered population is 25 years lower than for their counterparts with stable housing, according to point-in-time survey estimates. The same report also found rampant racial disparities — 43% of people facing homelessness are Black, although they make up roughly 10% of the county’s population. 

“We’ve been working incredibly hard on addressing the crisis,” said Erin Armstrong, senior policy adviser for board President Nate Miley. “Despite all of those efforts, we’ve seen year over year the number of people living on the streets increase, and the conditions are getting worse.” 

For the 2021 to 2022 fiscal year, the county budgeted over $200 million for programs to alleviate homelessness through crisis response, outreach and other initiatives. In 2022, the Alameda supervisors adopted the “Home Together 2026 Community Plan,” a set of goals and strategies for helping the unhoused population and reducing racial disparities by taking preventive action and connecting people to resources. The county estimates it will cost roughly $2.5 billion over the next five years to fully meet housing needs. 

In 2018, Alameda County declared a shelter emergency that unlocked state funding for homeless shelters that was renewed in 2022.

“We look forward to a robust conversation to be held with a sense of urgency to expand services and bring to scale needed shelter and housing programs,” Kerry Abbot, director of Health Services Office of Homelessness Care and Coordination, said in a statement. 

How much funding the declaration could bring to the county is unclear.

What happens next for Wood Street residents after city sweeps encampment?


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