Finding Hope, Resources During the Housing Crisis in the Bay Area

An African American family (man, woman, and toddler) smile at the camera in a selfie photo.
Photo courtesy of Aqueila M. Lewis-Ross.

Editor’s Note: Aqueila M. Lewis-Ross is an Oakland Voices Alumna correspondent who participated in the 2015-2016 cohort. Lewis, who previously lived in Oakland for 12 years, has struggled with being unhoused and is not alone. According to self-reported data, 82 percent of people who are homeless in Alameda County are people who lived here before they faced homelessness. The number of unhoused has increased substantially in recent years. Fifty percent of homeless people in the U.S. live in California.

My name is Aqueila M. Lewis-Ross, and my family of three, including my husband and 2-yr old daughter, is homeless. In fact, I was born into poverty and haven’t had a stable home since. I am 41 years old. I was raised in Vallejo and lived there until I went to Napa Valley College and transferred to UC Berkeley. I lived in Oakland for 12 years.

As a child, I dreamed about getting married, having children, and finally throwing away all of the boxes; for now that will wait.

What caused my family to become homeless? My husband lost his job that he was dedicated to for over 20-plus years, and we have scrambled to find government-funded resources for housing and jobs ever since. But finally, after looking at a post about housing/shelters on Facebook, I shared our situation, we were granted a housing scholarship, and were accepted in a program called Linkages that helps families obtain housing. While we wait to be placed in our home, we have stayed with friends for the last six months. 

Being homeless doesn’t mean that after you get a job, you suddenly won’t be homeless anymore. Most often it is about opportunity. It’s not about age. It doesn’t have a name or face, it most often isn’t really about race or class, or is it?

I wanted to share more about resources that can be helpful if you’re unhoused, as I am navigating everything and trying to find housing for our family.

Rapid Re-Housing Programs (Alameda County)

Rapid Re-housing: Provides move-in assistance, short-term rental subsidies, and connection to support services to quickly transition homeless households to a permanent housing solution. Rapid Re-housing programs assist clients by identifying barriers to housing stability and linking them with services to address those barriers while the household is permanently housed.

  • Southern Alameda County Housing/Jobs Linkages Program: This 7-agency collaborative program, led by Alameda County Housing and Community Development (HCD), provides transitional housing subsidies on permanent housing units, job preparation and placement, case management and other support services to homeless families throughout Mid, South and Eastern Alameda County. The program serves approximately 47 families at a time. Partners include Abode Services, FESCO, ESP, Building Futures with Women and Children, SAVE, and Tri-Valley Haven. Referrals to this program are made by the participating agencies. 
  • Realignment Housing Program: In partnership with Alameda County’s Probation Department, Social Services Agency, and three community- based organizations, HCD’s Realignment Housing Program provides a range of supports to people on Probation supervision under Criminal Justice Realignment. The goal of the Program is to assist participants to secure long-term stable housing that they can afford to retain. The program also provides immediate assistance to participants who are homeless or at risk. Services include: housing case management, emergency shelter or transitional program settings if needed, assistance securing long-term housing and short-term rental assistance, if needed. Flexibility allows responsiveness to the needs of participants. Referrals to the Program are made by Probation Deputies.
  • Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG): HCD currently funds community-based organizations to provide rapid re-housing services to the “Urban County” (Berkeley Food and Housing Project, Family Emergency Shelter Coalition and Abode Services). Services are provided to the cities of Albany, Emeryville, Dublin, Newark, Piedmont and the unincorporated county and are expected to serve approximately 48 households over two years. For more information, dial: 2-1-1, Eden I&R.
  • Winter Relief: HCD funds a rapid re-housing program in conjunction with the North County Winter Shelter program and in place of a previous South County Winter relief program. For more information, dial: 2-1-1, Eden I&R.
  • CalWORKs Housing Support (HSP): HCD, in partnership with Social Services Agency, funds a rapid re-housing program for homeless CalWORKs families. For more information, dial: 2-1-1, Eden I&R.


Additional Resources:

Rubicon Programs

Alameda Social Services: Season of Sharing

Causa Justa Just Cause – Unity is Power

Join the Facebook group “The Village in Oakland #feedthepeople”

East Oakland Collective (read the Oakland Voices profile of founder Candice Elder) (Co-founder of Poor Magazine & Pnn-Kexu 96.1FM Poor Peoples Revolutionary Radio/TV)

Harry Louis Williams also goes by O.G. Rev is an author, minister at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, and an advocate.

Author Profile

Aqueila M. Lewis-Ross is a multi-talented, award-winning Bay Area Native well-versed in singing, poetry/spoken word, and journalism. Aqueila has studied and performed throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and is a graduate of Napa Valley College and University of California, Berkeley. Her book of poetry, Stop Hurting and Dance, published by Pochino Press, is a collection of stories overcoming fear, oppression, gentrification, and police brutality; she honors what it means to live with resilience, love and prosperity. She holds the titles of Ms. Oakland Plus America 2014, SF Raw Performing Artist of the Year 2015, and was an Oakland Voices-KALW Community Journalist awardee in 2016 and Greater Bay Area Journalism Awardee in 2017.

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