The Reverend Drs. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., Senior Pastor Emeritus and J. Alfred Smith, Jr., current Senior Pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church, have a combined fifty-plus years of service as visionaries in the development of East Oakland for African-Americans.
Housing has been one of the key efforts on their social justice agenda.
The road to making their church vision a reality has not been smooth, but coordinated efforts with the government of all levels have made housing a reality.
The church’s affordable housing efforts began in the late 1970s, with the first complex open in 1988. The last complex opened in 2002, but community efforts continue.
“Ownership is key,” says Allen Temple Deacon Reginal Lyles, who has been an important member of the team working on affordable housing.
“The mortgage is paid off for Allen Temple Arms I and II, and we are on schedule for Allen Temple Gardens and Allen Temple Manor.”
Allen Temple housing is located on International Boulevard from 76th Avenue to 101st.
Allen Temple Housing & Economic Development Corporation (ATHEDCO), still focuses on improving the housing stock for low- and very low-income residents, increasing economic opportunities in the community, and educational and economic opportunities for youth.
American Baptist Homes of the West (ABHOW) remains an Allen Temple partner in the Arms IV, Allen Temple Manor project.
Today, there are a total of 228 units of affordable senior housing in the Allen Temple Arms I, II, III, and IV facilities.
Arms III, known as Allen Temple Gardens, and Arms IV, known as Allen Temple Manor, were so named as a HUD requirement that no longer exists.
In the late 1970s, when HUD told the church that East Oakland was not worthy of development, Pastor Smith, Sr. and church members worked with Clorox to build the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), to prove that development was taking place.
Opened in 1978, the EOYDC is across the street from Allen Temple Arms I and II.
In 1988, the first of the three-phase senior affordable housing developments, Allen Temple Arms I and II opened. Allen Temple Arms III opened in 2002.
Allen Temple Manor (Arms IV), the third phase of housing development, required Pastor Smith, Sr., to convince ABHOW that HIV-positive individuals deserved safe and affordable housing.
Discrimination against AIDS was strong, but Allen Temple Manor became one of the first in the country to house AIDS patients.
Catholic nuns helped train Allen Temple members in the details of care for HIV-positive residents that would live in Allen Temple Manor. Subsequently, Allen Temple leaders taught the leaders of ABHOW that all are worthy to live safely and securely.
Pastoral leadership, along with congregant active participation – from managers, realtors, attorneys, and politicians – and partnerships in the community made a “village” effort in the successes of affordable housing in East Oakland.
Church members, businesses and elected representatives lobbied Presidents Reagan, Bush, Sr., Clinton, and Bush, Jr., resulting in federal funding. Congressman Ron Dellums and current
Congresswoman Barbara Lee were instrumental in securing HUD funding for the Allen Temple housing development.
California governors have been lobbied into partnerships.
Gov. Jerry Brown just announced “no funding for affordable housing” in his current budget proposal, so Oakland will have to lobby again.
Mayors of Oakland have been strong partners.
Mayor Lionel Wilson and Elihu Harris supported Allen Temple’s efforts. The faith-based and nonprofit communities are working with current Mayor Libby Schaaf on solutions to the crisis of both homelessness and housing shortages.
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is working with community groups to facilitate solutions. Using city-owned property is one of those solutions and in fact, Allen Temple Arms I and II are built on property sold to the church by the city.
Since 1978, Allen Temple Baptist Church has been committed to finding solutions. A commitment to affordable housing, an “it takes a village” posture, and hard work created success in East Oakland, and will again.