A few years ago, 22 residents of Alameda County made the affordable housing crisis up close and personal for me. Encamping in front of our county administration building, these 22 people laid claim to public space when they couldn't find a home of their own.
These 22 are not alone. According to a 2013 report by EveryoneHome, an Alameda County nonprofit collaborative that conducts a biannual homeless count, more than 4,200 people in Alameda County are on the streets on any given night.
Working- and middle-class individuals and families have also felt the impact of the lack of housing. According to the real-estate company Trulia, it is estimated that Oakland rents increased more than 12 percent from January 2014 to January 2015.
The 22 in front of the administration building gave my staff and me 22 reasons to pay closer attention to housing for Alameda County's most vulnerable populations. We invited each one of them to a roundtable discussion on how the county could best serve their needs. Also in the meeting were elected officials, representatives of community-based organizations, and health professionals. With the magnitude of this issue in Alameda County and the Bay Area, every voice needed to be at the table.
The county offers resources to provide relief to those hit hardest by the lack of housing. The Housing Authority of the County of Alameda administers the federal Section 8 program for our community. In addition, Eden I&R Inc. is the county's "211" resource for those who need housing information and social services. The county even provides integrated services to homeless people, through the Public Health Department's Healthcare for the Homeless program. By coordinating these existing services and specialized funding, we were able to permanently house these 22 people. However, to build toward a long-term solution, we need a different approach.
Business leaders, local community-based organizations, elected officials, and the people who experience the effects of scarce housing are in a unique position to work together to find housing solutions. Elected leaders and other stakeholders must work together to leverage our diverse resources to address this crisis.