OAKLAND (KPIX) — Oakland resident Robert Allums has been homeless for more than a year, living out of his pick-up truck. He’s become accustomed to moving place to place, always on the hunt for somewhere to park and sleep for the night.
“You’re in your own vehicle and you’re not welcome by people or law enforcement,” he said.
A carpenter by trade, Allums was priced out of Oakland’s housing market. Another blow came when the company he worked for shut down, and yet another, when the tools he stored at his job were taken.
“Losing my tools, I mean, that was the roughest part,” he said.
Now Robert said he spends his days worrying about where his next meal, shower, or dollar will come from. But this Christmas Eve, for the first time in a long time, Robert knows exactly where he will sleep: in a bed at Word Assembly Church in East Oakland.
For 36 hours, he’ll have a bed at the church and get three hot meals from the kitchen. Bishop Keith Clark, Word Assembly’s pastor, named the program “Room at the Inn.”
“The Bible speaks in [the book of] Luke of how there was no room at the inn for Jesus to be born,” he explained.
Clark said instead of simply preaching a sermon, he is encouraging his parishioners to do more.
“This was an opportunity for us to really put our love in action. You know, the old saying: ‘Put your money where your mouth is,’” he said.
Clark said so far 71 volunteers have worked in four-hour shifts to help 15 homeless people, in a neighborhood where it’s not uncommon to see tent cities sprawling along city blocks.
While the program will not solve the city’s homeless crisis, Clark is teaching his congregation to help however they can.
“Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do,” he tells them.
Allums said he is grateful for the church’s generosity, even if only for a couple of days.
“Just to have somebody tell you to come in and we’re going to feed you and we’re going to house you for as much time as they can, it’s a wonderful thing,” he said.
Bishop Clark would like to see the program become an annual tradition at Word Assembly and expand beyond his congregation.
“I’m hoping it catches on and other churches are opening their doors to say hey, y’all can come in and stay.”