By Carla Thomas
Presidential candidate Julian Castro visited Oakland on Wednesday Sept. 25. Hosted by Councilman Noel Gallo, Castro was provided a tour of the Fruitvale district where he took photos at the Oscar Grant mural, held a reception at Guadalajara Restaurant and spent over an hour with the homeless.While walking with Gallo in a homeless encampment at High Street and Alameda Street, adjacent to Home Depot, Castro saw first hand the desperate need for affordable housing in the Bay Area. Previously serving the Housing Department under the Obama Administration, Castro is well aware of the crisis.
“As Housing Secretary under the Obama Administration, I travelled to 100 different communities in 39 states to work toward solutions…Housing is a right and these people are in dire need which is why I support a robust housing program,” said Castro.“This crisis needs to be placed on the presidential debates. So far the networks have not added this to the agenda.” From trash and debris to a colorful zone of cleanliness for kids, the tour put faces on the generic term “homeless.”
“We are people in need of a permanent solution, not just a temporary solution,” said Markaya Spikes who lives in the encampment with her 8 year old daughter. She said she’s lived there for 5 years and that there is also a 3 month old living in the enclave. “We need help with water, we often have to use the fire hydrants on the property for water,” said Spikes
About 15 media outlets representing radio, television and print trailed Gallo, his wife, Julian Castro and his press team.
Maria Fuentes, the mother of three children; ages seven, nine and 14, says her family ended up homeless when her undocumented husband was laid off. She says she has been camped there for five years.
“We lived in an apartment in Alameda before becoming homeless,” she said. “We want people to know that we are not just homeless, we are people and we need solutions,” said Fuentes, who had a few minutes to share her story with Castro and offered to assist him in helping the encampment.
Councilman Noel Gallo said the crisis is personal. “I went to high school with some of people living here, and we have to place them in safe, livable homes.”
According to Gallo, the property is privately owned but the long-time owner recently died. “The owners children recently leased the property to Carls, Jr. so everyone living here will have to move by December,” he said.
Gallo also explained that a vacant area across the street owned by the City will be used to relocate some some of them ,and a nearby motel will become senior and veteran housing. “But so much more needs to be done,” he said.
This article originally appeared in Post News Group.