The housing crisis in California is hitting the lower-income groups harder than it had ever done before. The rent prices are soaring and there seems to be no respite. The homeless encampments in Oakland are on the rise and there are so many that it is becoming the whole make-up of the city.
However, there is hope.
A community of housed and unhoused residents is changing the attitudes of common people towards homeless encampments. This community is settled at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 37th Street. It is called 37MLK.
37MLK is a vacant lot in Oakland and it had overgrown weeds. A chain-link acts as a fence of this lot. Stefani Echeverría-Fenn, a resident of that area, often used to pass through this area. It was an eyesore. She could not really understand why it was not being put to good use. Especially, since there were many homeless tents popping up just a block away.
But the homeless women knew that if there was no one to take care of them, they had to take care of themselves. So, with the help of the kind community, they settled in the 37MLK. It became one of the few homeless encampments in the area. It is also one of the most advanced ones out there. They have a solar shower and a garden which has flowers and food. There is a communal kitchen as well as a dining table. Even when it comes to sanitary, they have camping toilets and a pump-operated sink. They are maintained by homeless people, especially homeless black women.
The homeless embankment has become a sanctuary.
The people in this community feel that the fences protect them. They have also set up mini-white picket fences. The homeless women also have chickens to give them eggs and keep insect and pest population to a minimum.
Now, Stefani Echeverría-Fenn and other neighbors are trying their best to keep the homeless community safe and secure. They want to make them feel as if they are a part of the entire local community. According to Stefani Echeverría-Fenn, the homeless are often accused of being dirty. However, according to Stefani, this is because they don’t have access to trash facilities.
But the collective cleaning effort of this homeless embankment has shocked the local people and the local police too. The community has kept a record of staying clean. It just shows that such homeless embankments are not always dirty if they get the right kind of access to trash facilities.
37MLK is an inspiration. On the model of 37MLK, currently, Oakland city council members are trying to allot money for similar projects. Quite recently, a sum of $600,000 has been allocated to establish a similar model in the Oakland district.
Maybe with a couple of homeless embankments, we can tackle the question of homelessness. And whenever we hear such positive news, we only wish how the government and we, ourselves, can help uplift the homeless and the weak. Because 37MLK’s story shows that it is possible – if we only try.