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Open Letter: Community Leaders Call on Mayor, Coun...

Open Letter: Community Leaders Call on Mayor, Council to Support Unsheltered Residents 

The following is an open letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council Members, City Administrator Landreth and Staff, dated June 11:
Recently about 30 groups focused on Lake Merritt have been meeting to discuss how to safeguard and improve the parks around Lake Merritt, the facilities within it, and the coordination of everyone’s efforts.
As you know, one of the issues concerning our groups has been the growing number of encampments throughout the parklands of Lake Merritt. We know that you receive complaints and worries from citizens.
We have come to the understanding that this is a time for everyone to pull together and work collaboratively to accommodate all our residents, whether regular park users, or people with no shelter.
Therefore, we urge your support and funding in the FY ’18-’19 budget for three efforts to address the city-wide encampment crisis:
  1. Improve sanitation and health measures, as outlined by the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, for $1 million: Provide adequate water, hand-washing, health & hygiene facilities, shower capability, porta-potties, and rubbish removal services for all encampments of six (6) or more people-units.
  2. Support “green teams” established by the unsheltered residents, by providing debris bags, tools, and trash pickup. Establish a small stipend for participation (either through the city directly or through one of the nonprofits), as has been done in many other cities.
  3. Several of these teams already exist and have made noticeable improvements in their areas; we should support this, and we should support the resultant involvement of residents in their communities and in better interaction with city workers.
  4. Fund and facilitate three pilot projects of sheltered communities as suggested by the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, for $3 million.

At the request of homeless representatives, at least one of the temporary shelter communities should be a clean-and-sober-only area: Enable three (3) “pilot projects” of “alternative housing models” on City-owned land: (a) 2 to 3 small-home villages; (b) a village of converted shipping containers; (c) a 100-unit comprehensive campus of manufactured housing units, complete with gang kitchen, classrooms, computer room, storage, counseling, and job training.

We have come to agree that unless the unsheltered community members are themselves part of the effort, City efforts will not succeed.

We urge you to appropriate money wisely now, rather than incurring increased expenditures later on in remedial public works, social services, and health services efforts.

Thank you for your attention to our comments.

The open letter was signed by over 30 community leaders who are active in protecting and developing the Lake Merritt area. The names of signers are at Homeless@LM

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