Unhoused in Oakland During COVID-19 Pandemic

Markaya Spikes walks with former U.S. Presidential candidate Julian Castro. (Photo: Paul Chinn)

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected my life tremendously. Being unhoused in Oakland, the shelter-in-place has impacted my income, access to resources, and my daughter’s education. The lockdown has limited my access to work. Not having work makes it difficult to maintain any type of normalcy I can while already being unhoused. Recycling centers are closed, which is also another source of income.

The major essentials that I need to survive day-to-day are even more limited due to housed individuals panicking about the coronavirus and going out doing mass shopping. It is challenging being able to continue to purchase water and we need to purchase at least 40 one gallon water bottles every week in order to have both drinking and bath water. 

Having everything essentially closed causes another issue. When it comes down to handling important business, online services and Internet access are either congested by all the increased traffic that they are receiving, or are not available at all. It’s hard finding all the essentials needed for day-to-day living. 

Oakland schools are closed and the reopening dates keep changing. This prevents my daughter from being able to get her education as well as her ability to socialize with her peers. That is a necessary skill. Just being able to take my daughter out to have a good time is impossible.

The challenges I face as a curbside Oakland resident during the pandemic are being able to acquire the income needed for daily living, having no work available and not knowing when it will be available. It is a challenge not being able to take my child to school if I was able to get work for the day.

I am adjusting to changing the way I can advocate for and support other unhoused people. We are all trying to keep ourselves entertained inside, adjust to how everything is closed and how long will it be closed for. The government dropped the ball on curbing this in the beginning before it became a pandemic.


Markaya Spikes is an Oakland Voices correspondent.

(Photo by Paul Chinn for the San Francisco Chronicle. )

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