OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Oakland has a solution to house the growing number of homeless people living in tent cities in abandoned hotels. The city will have to move fast though, before developers buy up those buildings.

Roughly 2,700 people live in tents, cars or sleep under the bridge in Oakland. With the increased visibility, it’s hard to ignore the crisis and people like Dennis Mix.

“I lost my self, right now,” says Mix. “I’m not sure who I am anymore. Constantly moving, moving, moving. You know, wondering, wondering, wondering.”

Oakland city leaders voted to spend $14 million to buy single-room-occupancy hotels to house the homeless.

The city has not identified which hotels it will buy, but plans to buy at least one, maybe two in downtown Oakland.

They’re competing against real estate developers.

“That’s part of why it’s so important that we buy some of the remaining ones now before they get flipped to luxury condos,” says city councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

Kaplan says instead of building new apartments, buying existing hotels will be faster and cheaper.

“People call it navigation center — let’s people get immediately off the streets into interim housing. So if they need drug treatment for example, they’re given a room to stay in while they’re matched for services.”

The goal is to get people into permanent housing.

Dennis says anything helps, because not enough has been done to house the homeless.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” says Mix. “I’d jump right up in there. I’d be first in line for it.”

John Hanahoe has been living in his van.

“Fourteen million is a good start I guess, but it’s just a band aid on a compound fracture.”

Councilmember Kaplan says they have to start somewhere, and more plans are on the way.

Oakland hopes to close the deal on a hotel by the end of 2017.

The money will come from voter-approved Measure KK. The city will find a separate funding source for services and support in those building.

Comments (4)
  1. yes, this will help many of the homeless. but there is a large number of them who are behaviorally unfit to live in housing. they destroy rooms, and cant get along with others, due to severe mental illness and chronic drug and alcohol abuse. if you let too many of them into any housing, they will drive out others, letting it become a drug den, or they will be kicked out, repeatedly. we need to enforce the new Ala Cty law that allows some chronic mentally ill to be forced to take meds (i know, it sounds awful, but you have NO IDEA how difficult some of these people are to stabilize. they have ZERO insight into having an MI). and, we need a massive increase in effective drug treatment. our detox beds are very limited, programs are often not evidence based (enough with 12 step as a model for a drug program, its not proven, it only works for those who want it and can use it well).

  2. Sarah Rose says:

    Thank you Oakland!! This is a great start.

  3. Oakland should use the power of eminent domain to acquire these properties for homeless housing rather than competing with developers for them. I also agree that people will mental illness should be forced to take their meds rather than inflict themselves on other people just trying to survive.