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Oakland Unveils Tuff Shed Village To House Homeless

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Faced with a growing homeless population, Oakland city officials unveiled a village of 20 small Tuff Sheds Tuesday that will help get people off the city's streets and out of large markshift tent encampments.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was at the unveiling -- the third such Tuff Shed village located within her city.

"No one deserves to spend a single night sleeping on the streets," she told reporters.

The Tuff Sheds -- most commonly used to store lawn care equipment and other tools in backyards -- will house two people per structure and the small living area will be cut into two by a privacy curtain.

There is room for a bed and a few belongings.

The goal of the city's three villages is to help clear out the massive tent encampments that have been expanding over the last several years and pose safety and health issues.

The first city sanctioned village opened in January between Castro and Brush streets. Then, another 20 units under I-980 in May.

Out of 126 people who have stayed in these temporary homes, officials said, 39 have gone on to find more permanent housing. For others, it's a work in progress.

"We can't solve all the problems, all at once," said Oakland City Councilman Abel Guillen. "But we are taking concrete steps today to make a difference for 40 people."

There are separate toilet facilities at each site and each week, portable showers are brought in. The city also provides two meals a day to the village residents.

Each site costs about $750,000 a year to operate with money coming from private donations, Oakland, Alameda County and Kaiser Permanente.

Assistant to the City Administrator Joe DeVries said that people will rotate out of the Tuff Sheds once they find more stable housing.

"We don't consider this housing, we consider this moving from a tent to a bed," he said.

The city hopes to have more transitional housing for homeless people soon. In April, Oakland bought a building, a vacant single-room occupancy hotel at 741 W. Grand Ave., to supplement the existing Henry Robinson Multi Service Center at 559 16th St.

The new building would add another 70-90 beds to shelter homeless people once it opens, but the city is still seeking funding for its operation from the state and county, DeVries said. He said Oakland is still aiming to open the shelter by the end of the year.

Even then, Oakland is a long way from housing the more than 2,700 people estimated to be homeless in the city as of the most recent homeless count from last year.

As the first rain of the season arrived in Oakland Tuesday, DeVries said that the city's winter shelter with about 100 beds will open at the St. Vincent de Paul Community Center in November.

He said the city is looking into having that shelter operate year-round, but they have has found that the approach of that shelter, with a single large room where everyone sleeps, is unappealing to many homeless people and may be less effective than the Tuff Sheds

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