A Sobering Evening on the Streets of Oakland

Several of us at Asbury recently participated in the Alameda County Homeless Count.  Conducted every two years, the Count is a comprehensive survey of the homeless in the country, how they got homeless and the challenges they face.

My assignment was to assist with the count in the City of Oakland.  Starting at 4pm we traversed the bowels of the city visiting homeless encampments, parks and other gathering places.  I traveled with the Mobile Outreach Unit of Operation Dignity.  Operation Dignity, focused primarily on veterans, offers homeless veterans support services, transitional housing and other types of aid.  However, the Mobile Unit reaches out to anyone they encounter to offer help.

We traveled from location to location, stopping from 10 to 30 minutes at various locations to hand out a meal, offer clothing and to ask a few survey questions.  Troubling, to say the least.  Tents, cardboard boxes, scraps of wood and metal are called “home.”  Some “homes” were under overpasses (good shelter from rain).  Other encampments are located along industrial parks.  We even visited one behind a Target Store.

I was intrigued by how creative the homeless population of my outreach creates “family,” finds and shares food and clothing and other castoff societal waste.  I was saddened to hear their stories.  I met many nice people who just got themselves into a situation of their own doing by bad choices; or as often as not, by things that happened to them in life.

I came away from this brief encounter with the needs of the homeless humbled and painfully aware that I have so many blessings in my life.  I also realized (again!) that, whenever possible, we should offer even modest help as a church living our faith in the world.

Sincerely, Steve Elliott

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More about Operation Dignity….

Providing a hand up, not a hand out.

Operation Dignity assists homeless veterans and their families. We provide emergency, transitional and permanent housing for homeless in Alameda County, California. We also offer comprehensive support services, nutritious meals and a strong peer community. Our goal is to help veterans rediscover hope and provide the tools needed to live a self-sufficient and stable life.

Mobile Outreach Unit

Five nights a week, Operation Dignity Mobile Outreach Unit visits multiple encampments, streets, parks and underpasses in Oakland, CA to provide case management in the field and essential items—like food, hygiene kits, blankets and clothing—for 90-125 homeless individuals. Our crew provides intensive support to chronically homeless individuals, and encourages them to seek shelter, medical services, safe housing and overall stability.

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