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State Buys FEMA Trailers as Part of Billion-Dollar Plan to House Homeless

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- The state of California is pouring millions of dollars into Oakland to house the homeless in 15 trailers, purchased from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that once were used to house wildfire evacuees.

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled those trailers Thursday afternoon as part of his ambitious plan to spend $1 billion to fight homelessness in California.

Oakland is the first city to get those former FEMA trailers. Mayor Libby Schaaf said six of the trailers will house homeless youth and nine will house families. To qualify, homeless families will have to show that at least one adult has a job. Each trailer contains three beds, a sofa bed, a bathroom and a kitchen. The mayor said those 15 trailers will house 60 to 70 people.

"It's a much more dignified situation for a family to live in and that was something we were not able to provide with our cabin community model," mayor Schaaf said.

She and the governor admitted it's a drop in the bucket. Gov. Newsom said the state will distribute $650 million over the next few months to cities across California. Alameda County and Oakland will receive $38 million for homeless programs. On top of that, he said they will use state-owned properties to house the homeless.

"Roughly a hundred of those properties will start turning over to local jurisdictions so they can start building on those sites, either navigation centers, more robust shelters or more permanent supportive housing," said Gov. Newsom. "It's all-hands-on-deck. We own this issue. It's the issue of our time."

He said the latest count shows California has 151,278 homeless people.

KPIX interviewed two homeless people near the governor's press conference. Amilee Smith and Marquis Douglas were evicted from their long-time east Oakland home two months ago. Now they sleep in their truck.

"I applied for housing. I applied for everything you can think of ... nothing!" Douglas said.

They said their disability and social security checks aren't enough to pay rent.

"It's very cold out here, living in a truck. It's real cold," said Smith.

They like the new trailer program but they don't qualify. They're waiting for Section 8 housing.

The governor said he's requesting another $750 million to fight homelessness in the new budget.

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