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Homeless Find Refuge from Cold at Downtown Emergency Shelter

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By Kevin Rychel, Oakland Local

Homeless people in Oakland had cause to worry when the Oakland Army Base’s Winter Shelter finally closed for good, especially in the wake of a recent Bay Area cold snap that claimed a number of homeless victims.

Questions arose about the ability of an emergency shelter to provide for those who would have sought refuge at the army base’s shelter. But even as the city experiences all time low temperatures, the city-designated emergency shelter may actually be an improved resource for struggling homeless people in Oakland.

That’s the hope, according to Jamie Almanza, executive director of the non-profit Bay Area Community Services (BACS), who says the move from the Army Base to the Henry Robinson Multi Service Center has thus far been “positive.”

According to Almanza, the Army Base shelter’s location required busing people from Oakland and Berkeley, which often proved difficult. The emergency shelter’s location on 16th Street in downtown Oakland will provide greater accessibility for those struggling through the cold weather.

The army base winter shelter had been a joint-shelter run by the cities of Oakland and Berkeley in an industrial area of West Oakland. Its 12-year existence came to an end in 2012, according to Susan Shelton, a manager at the City of Oakland Department of Housing services, and the base is now being developed in a major city project. T

The building that formerly housed the shelter is set to be demolished. The City of Berkeley has in turn responded to the closing of the Army Base by relocating funds to four of its local shelters.

Oakland’s emergency shelter at the Henry Robinson center has 50 beds for single men and women, half of what the joint shelter had (though the emergency shelter is not a joint venture as the Army Base was, and is directed towards Oakland residents).

According to Shelton, the Henry Robinson center was recommended by a task force appointed by Mayor Jean Quan and was chosen because of its “accessibility and proximity to mainstream services.” The city also allocated $168,161 to the emergency shelter.

But the transition of facilities to the Henry Robinson center was also due to its particular approach to the problem of homelessness itself, as it exists in Oakland. Jamie Almanza says BACS, which runs the emergency shelter, provides interim housing for the “chronically homeless” for a period of 4-18 months.

 

During this time the shelter also provides services to help its residents gain independent living skills and seek counseling and rehabilitation where it is needed. Some of the other services offered include helping the homeless gain driver’s licenses and health care.

The purpose of the interim housing, Almanza said, is to help the homeless secure permanent housing and ensure they can move into “stable, secure, and adequate housing” when they are prepared to leave the program.

Almanza also said the shelter prepared for the recent cold snap by partnering with St. Vincent de Paul, whose shelter absorbs the spillover when the Henry Robinson center is crowded beyond capacity. While the shelter has been adequately funded by the city, there is still a need for donations of men’s clothes, socks, towels, and other items, she said.

Cross Posting with Oakland Local.

Community

Civil Rights Icon, Robert Parris Moses, 86

Dr. Robert Parris Moses, a Harlem native who became one of the architects of Freedom Summer, died at his home in Hollywood, Fla., on July 25. He was 86 years old.

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Dr. Robert Parris Moses

Dr. Robert Parris Moses, a Harlem native who became one of the architects of Freedom Summer, died at his home in Hollywood, Fla., on July 25. He was 86 years old.

“Throughout his life, Bob Moses bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice,” said Derrick Johnson, head of the NAACP on Twitter at hearing of Moses’ death. “He was a strategist at the core of the voting rights movement and beyond. He was a giant. May his light continue to guide us as we face another wave of Jim Crow laws.”

Among his contemporaries in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which Moses joined in a founding meeting in 1960, he was known for his quiet, measured demeanor, deliberately eschewing the spotlight.

By taking to heart the values taught by his mentor, NAACP youth leader Ella Baker, who believed in engaging the local population to enact change, he deliberately disrupted leadership norms in the Black community that centered the male, charismatic voice.   

It was Baker who sent Moses to the deep South in August 1960 where her NAACP contacts in McComb, Miss., wanted to do more than integrate lunch counters and bus waiting rooms. In the summer of 1961, they would embark on a voter registration campaign. Well-documented terror and violence ensued. Over the next three years, Moses would be beaten while escorting a Black couple up the courthouse steps to register to vote, waiting until that was done before seeking medical treatment. In another incident he and two others would dodge Klansmen’s bullets on country roads.

Moses was one of the organizers of 1964’s Freedom Summer, which saw mostly college kids flock to Mississippi to help register Black people to vote. Moses was also instrumental in creating the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which famously attempted to be recognized at the Democratic presidential election in 1964 and where sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer would embody the bottom-up philosophy espoused by Baker. It was her speech, broadcast on nationwide television and which then-Pres. Lyndon Johnson tried to pre-empt, that brought home to the American public the terror of living in Mississippi while Black.

Disillusioned by the policies of liberal Democrats, Moses disengaged from SNCC and, on his own, began to speak out against the Vietnam War. In 1966, at the age of 31, five years older than the normal maximum draft age, the married father was drafted. He moved to Canada and then to Tanzania with his wife and stayed there working in the Ministry of Education, returning to the U.S. in 1977 when he and 100,000 others were pardoned by Pres. Jimmy Carter.

A few years later, after completing his doctorate in philosophy, he visited his daughter’s school. Learning that algebra was not offered at the inner-city school, was what led him to founding the Algebra Project. In 1982, he received the MacArthur Genius Award for his program of helping schools and communities get the basic math classes that are the gateway to college admission.

In addition to the degrees he earned from Hamilton College and Harvard, he has received honorary degrees from Swarthmore College, Ohio State University, and the University of Missouri.

Other awards were the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship and the War Resisters League Peace Award among others.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Janet Jemmott Moses; children Maisha Moses, Omo Wale Moses, Taba Moses, Malaika Moses and Saba Moses; and seven grandchildren.

The New York Times, The Nation, Wikipedia, National Public Radio, Reuters and The Miami Herald were sources for this report. 

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Assembly Candidates Confront the Issues:  Howard Terminal , Local Control of Schools, Reparations

The candidates are running to represent Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro in a June 29 special election for California State Assembly District #18, a seat that was previously held by Rob Bonta, who was recently appointed as California Attorney General.

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James Aguilar

Janani Ramachandran

Malia Vella

Mia Bonta

 

Candidates for State Assembly responded to pointed  questions on some of the critical issues facing Oakland schools and the community – including displacement, housing, reparations, public safety and returning full local control to the public schools – at a recent Education Candidate Forum on Zoom hosted by the School of Education at Holy Names University in Oakland, in partnership with the Oakland Post Community Assembly.

The candidates are running to represent Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro in a June 29 special election for California State Assembly District #18, a seat that was previously held by Rob Bonta, who was recently appointed as California Attorney General. Candidates attending the forum were James Aguilar, Victor Aguilar, Mia Bonta, Joel Britton, Janani Ramachandran, and Malia Vella.

The event was hosted by Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, dean of the School of Education at  Holy Names, who emphasized the importance of these issues for the city’s future.

“We have just come through a moral and political crisis (in this country) around racism and the government’s role in maintaining this system. We are looking for a new approach, and this is the lens we will be using today for this education forum,” said  Dr. Mayfield.

Also welcoming the candidates and the public to event were Oakland Post publisher Paul Cobb and his wife Gay Plair Cobb, who highlighted  their intense interest in schools and education. Paul Cobb is a former member of the Oakland Board of Education, and Gay Cobb served for many years on the Alameda County Board of Education.

The first question to  candidates was whether they would oppose the big money coalition of politicians and  powerful interests  behind  Oakland A’s owner John Fisher’s stadium and massive downtown real estate project at Howard Terminal. 

 Opponents of the project  argue  that the A’s proposal is vaguely worded and would come at a  high cost to Oakland taxpayers, who would foot the bill for decades. They say the development would create  a city-within-a-city, like Piedmont, that would  displace local residents and likely wreck  the Port of Oakland and its decent-paying longshore jobs, turning the city’s waterfront  and downtown into a tourist attraction like Pier 39 in San Francisco.

Of the three candidates who are considered to be the top contenders., only Janani Ramachandran was strongly opposed to Fisher’s deal. Malia Vella and Mia Bonta raised concerns but did not oppose the development. 

James Aguilar, Victor Aguilar and Joel  Britton were also against the project.

Bonta, president of the school board in Alameda, said, “I believe that there is a way for us to be able to hold the Oakland A’s accountable to the plan and the processes that they made … starting with stakeholder involvement in the environmental impact of the proposed project.”

Malia Vella,  vice mayor of Alameda and attorney for the Teamsters Union, said, “We need to have community input. The best projects are the results of a robust process that involve community stakeholders,… and an opportunity to meaningfully engage.. to get the best community benefits.”

Said Janani  Ramachandran, a social justice attorney, “I was the first candidate in this race who took an uncompromising, clear and public stand against the project … because having visited Howard Terminal, I have seen why it is entirely unfeasible and harmful to our West Oakland residents and extremely harmful to our thriving port, the fifth largest in the country.”

The candidates supported the statewide demand or reparations and the movement for Reparations for Black Students raised by community groups in Oakland.  They also backed an approach to public safety that deemphasizes policing and stresses the need for jobs, housing and health care to build safe communities. 

Candidates also backed the return of local control of Oakland schools and loan forgiveness, to end the domination of the schools  by a state-imposed trustee and the austerity program pushed by Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT),as well as halting the closing of schools in flatland neighborhoods.

Bonta called for “an end state receivership, which is decades old, and  the FCMAT order that has created a status of fiscal enslavement of Oakland Unified, which paired with growth of charter schools has created a structural deficit that OUSD  can’t get out from under.”

About teacher recruitment, all the candidates said would seek to end expensive standardized tests and other obstacles facing Black and other people of color who want to become teachers.

Janani Ramachandran said she would support legislation  “to remove excess and expensive tests and other barriers that .. keep Black and other potential teachers of color from entering the profession.”

 

To watch the video of the forum, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vsEi_7bXx4

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Legislative Summary from State Senator Nancy Skinner

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @NancySkinnerCA and Facebook and to visit my Senate website for regular updates on the status of my legislation and information on the state budget. It is a pleasure serving you in the state Senate.

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Sen. Nancy Skinner. Photo courtesy of Nancy Skinner.

Here’s a brief summary of the bills I introduced this year that are still moving through the legislative process. All so far were passed by the state Senate and are now on their way to the Assembly:

  • SB 8 Extends Housing Crisis Act of 2019: The Housing Crisis Act helped expedite housing that meets local rules by asking local governments to process permits faster and not change the rules midstream. SB 8 extends the sunset on the Housing Crisis Act until 2030.
  • SB 16 Coming Clean on Police Records: Thanks to my 2018 bill, SB 1421, Californians now have access to a limited set of police misconduct records. SB 16 expands access to records on officers who have engaged in biased or discriminatory behavior, unlawful arrests and searches, and excessive force.
  • SB 65 California Momnibus Act: California’s infant and maternal death rates, especially for families of color, persist at high rates. SB 65 expands pre- and postpartum services, such as doula care and financial support, to reduce death rates and ensures data is collected to understand what’s causing these disparities.
  • SB 65 California Momnibus Act: California’s infant and maternal death rates, especially for families of color, persist at high rates. SB 65 expands pre- and postpartum services, such as doula care and financial support, to reduce death rates and ensures data is collected to understand what’s causing these disparities.
  • SB 81 Judicial Guidelines for Sentencing Enhancements: California has over 160 enhancements that add time to a prison sentence over and above the time required for the crime committed. SB 81 establishes parameters for judges to determine whether a sentence enhancement is needed to help ensure that sentences are the length the judge believes is necessary to protect public safety.
  • SB 262 Bail Reform: I’m a joint author of SB 262 to reform CA’s bail system so no one is kept in jail simply because they can’t afford bail.
  • SB 290 Clarifying CA’s Density Bonus Law: Allows low-income student housing and for-sale low- and moderate-income housing to benefit from California’s Density Bonus law.
  • SB 354 Relative Placement: Reduces barriers that prevent children in foster care from being placed with relatives and extended family.

And great news, the funding to support my bill, SB 364, Free School Meals for All, was included in the Legislature’s budget proposal, which means millions of our K-12 students will get a free meal at school.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @NancySkinnerCA and Facebook and to visit my Senate website for regular updates on the status of my legislation and information on the state budget. It is a pleasure serving you in the state Senate.

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