Lunch, haircuts, health tests, even pedicures for unhoused residents at Alameda County resource fair
on November 10, 2023
Donnie Martin’s first stop at Alameda County’s Homeless Resources Fair on Thursday was at a stall that offered haircuts, manicures and other grooming services. He got his feet done.
“They needed it,” he said. “They were looking kind of bad.”
Martin, a former basketball player and coach, has been living in Crossroads transitional housing for seven months. He is moving into a new apartment in Rockridge this week and came to the event looking for leads on coaching jobs.
“It might happen up here,” he said. “It ain’t what you know, it’s who you know.”
Martin, 65, was among over 125 attendees at the county’s first Homeless Resource Fair. The staff at Crossroads told him about the event, a collaboration between Aladema Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley, Oakland councilmembers Kevin Jenkins and Treva Reid, and the Acts Full Gospel Church.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., dozens of community members like Martin walked around the gravel parking lot behind East Oakland Faith Deliverance Center, owned by Acts Full Gospel Church. Moving between blue tents, people talked with service providers for the unhoused population, including East Oakland Collective, Roots Community Health Center, and dozens of others. Outside the event, Dignity on Wheels provided free showers and laundry services. At other stalls people collected pamphlets, received free COVID-19 and HIV test kits, had their hair cut, and browsed free clothing. Free lunch was served at noon by the county’s Behavioral Health Services.
In September, Alameda County declared a state of emergency on homelessness. Erin Armstrong, senior policy adviser for Miley’s office, explained that after the declaration, the office felt urgency to respond.
“So we said, ‘You know what? We need to use the power of this office,'” she said. “The thing that we can do is, we can convene, we can organize.”
Miley connected with Bishop Bob Jackson from Acts Full Gospel Church to shape the idea.
“His vision is to create a homeless center at that location in East Oakland,” explained church elder Corey Vason. “So he partnered with County Supervisor Nate Miley to put on this pilot program, just to gauge the interest, just to see what resources we can get out there.”
The church supported the county by providing space, logistics and security for the fair, which took place in District 6, represented by Jenkins. The city, including Reid’s office, assisted with outreach and waste management at the fair.
“I think success is a subjective question, right? And I think in my view, if one person gets served it was a success. If one person gets resources, it was a success,” Jenkins said.
Jessica Rogers, a domestic violence outreach manager for housing resource center Building Futures, estimated that she and her co-worker spoke to at least 100 people at their stall.
“I would love it if they did this again and we table at other events as well,” she said. “It’s really successful, and we were able to give out our information to a lot of people.”
Before he left, Martin reflected on the day.
“Everything was beautiful,” he said. “You know, I’m kind of impressed. This is my first time coming to something like that.”
(Top photo: People enjoying lunch at the Alameda County Homeless Resource Fair, by Hussain Khan)
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