Drive through what locals call Deep East Oakland and there will be street after street lined with cars that haven't been driven in years.
Few people know this area better than Candice Elder and Duaine Beamon. Their nonprofit, East Oakland Collective, has been showing up in the area every week to deliver something most people there can't afford: restaurant-cooked meals.
"This is really one of those that you never hear or talk about," Beamon said. "Every car that you see here, someone is living in it. This is their home."
With the help of another nonprofit called Community Kitchen, Beamon and Elder have been able to secure meals from some of Oakland's best-known BIPOC restaurants.
Every meal they serve has been carefully prepared. On Monday, it was a variety of sandwiches from a local institution called Ratto's Deli. But no matter how much they bring, it's never enough.
"Food insecurity has exploded since the pandemic. We see more and more people who are hungry, more and more people don't have access to food," Elder said.
Fifty years ago, East Oakland was a thriving middle-class community. Now, many of its streets have deteriorated.
Earlier this month, Alameda County's Board of Supervisorson homelessness after its unhoused population jumped 22% since 2019.
Chet Goodrich, an Army veteran, has been living in his van with his dog Pancho for more than a decade, after a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed. The sandwich he got from Beamon, he said, was his first meal in two days.
But even more important than the food itself was how it's delivered, he said.
"They always show up smiling," he said. "They don't judge me. They have something nice to say and something good to eat."
According to Elder and Beamon, each week the desperation there grows more acute. But what keeps them going is the look on people's faces as they hand them a fresh meal.
"I wouldn't be able to do the work if I focused on the heartbreak," Elder said. "I kind of turn that energy into impact.
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