News & Events

September 27, 2016



Gibson McElhaney launches ‘Compassionate Communities’
A New Approach to addressing Oakland’s Homeless Crisis

Oakland – Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney announced the roll-out of “Compassionate Communities” a new pilot program to address the growing unsheltered community in Oakland, developed in partnership with Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. Gibson McElhaney represents Council District 3, which is part of Carson’s district and includes West Oakland, Downtown and Jack London neighborhoods heavily impacted by the growth of tent cities.


“73% of Oakland’s unsheltered residents live in District 3,” says Gibson McElhaney. “Supervisor Carson and I wondered what could we accomplish if we considered those living in the streets as constituents to be served, rather than a problem to be solved.”


“Everyone across the country is struggling to address homelessness,” said Supervisor Carson. “I am optimistic that this partnership will help us address the issue better.” Gibson McElhaney has long advocated for more innovative strategies and for government to act with greater urgency to address the growing number of campsites popping up across the city. In June she obtained $190,000 in the City’s mid-cycle budget to launch the Compassionate Communities Initiative. Supervisor Carson and Gibson McElhaney then worked with a planning team of city and county staff to design this service-in-place model. The city/county partnership seeks to find provide relief to those living in the camps while simultaneously tackling the public health, safety and sanitation concerns of the sheltered neighbors.”


The Compassionate Communities pilot launched this week with a meeting with residents at an existing encampment in West Oakland. The City will soon provide portable toilets at the site, and County case workers specializing in mental and physical health, employment and transitional housing have begun meeting with each resident to plug them into services. The pilot is expected to last no more than six months during which time the goal is to help each resident move into stable housing.


Contrary to popular opinion, the majority of the people living on the street are Oakland residents who have been displaced, formerly incarcerated or struggle with mental issues. “We don’t mean anybody any harm. We’re just people down on our luck who need a little help. This program gives us hope,” said Barry P., a Camp resident. At last night’s meeting housed neighbors expressed optimism for the pilot. “This is a good first step that could provide a blueprint for how to support our homeless neighbors at other campsites throughout the city,” said Ray Kidd, a long-term active resident in West Oakland.


Council President Gibson McElhaney is a strong leader on housing issues. Other measures underway include promoting Alameda County Measure A1 – the County Affordable Housing Bond effort co-chaired by Carson and Supervisor Wilma Chan, and Measure LL – the Oakland Renters Protection Act legislation McElhaney co-authored to strengthen tenant protections.

For more information, please contact Zac Wald