Bay Area Residents Recycle Super Bowl City To Build Homes For The Homeless
For people sleeping on the streets, having no real shelter and trying to battle exposure to the elements, every night is a constant battle to survive. Many of these people can’t afford to wait months on end for a city to scout new shelter locations, vote on new laws, hire government officials, etc. So to prove that people don’t need to rely on the city to take care of us all the time, volunteers from various parts of the Bay Area came together to help their fellow neighbors by building homes for the homeless. This past weekend proved that there still is that sense of “Bay Area Love” still burning within it’s community.
Following the creative project originally started by Greg Kloehn, the event called, “Homeless Homes Pop Up Build” was organized by Vanessa Dzevdetbegovic to invite members of the community to join in building creative shelters for those in need. Nimby, a shared industrial co-working space in Oakland, opened their doors to the event and provided necessary working tools for the construction. Volunteers included families, children, friends and strangers with varying building expertise.
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Greg didn’t originally start out with the goal to build homes for the homeless. In fact, he was just having fun scrounging together pieces to build fun creative structures, until Shiela, a local woman who’s been homeless for 20 years, approached him one day asking to borrow a tarp for shelter. He didn’t offer the tarp but instead provided her with a new miniature home he had previously built. ”Seeing all of the excitement and positive reception this has on people, I released we don’t have to wait for legislation and politicians to have an immediate impact,” said Greg. “For the homeless, their day isn’t ruined by traffic on the freeway, they have a much better perspective on the important things in life that many of us forget or take for granted.”
Edgar Nunez, a San Francisco resident and Bay Area native, is an interface designer for a tech startup and came out to lend a hand in building the homes. For him, “people in tech are always inspired to help solve global problems but it’s important to understand what’s affecting the smaller communities first, before you tackle on these abstract issues and there’s no better place to start than your own backyard.”
Most of the construction pieces that were used for the event were either donated or scrounged from local trash. Everything from loose 2×4’s, recycled refrigerators, half used floor boards, broken window frames and more, were recycled to create these unique homes. In fact, many of the larger pieces were derived from structures used during the construction of Super Bowl City. It’s a beautiful sense of poetic justice for citizens to build homes from materials from an ugly event, for the same people that the city kicked them out for.
In just a two-day span, 9 new homes were built in total. The costs of these homes included the amount of a beautiful sunny afternoon in West Oakland, volunteer chefs grilling hot dogs, cold drinks, a chance to meet new friends and maybe even get a slight tan. For cost comparison, the Pier 80 shelter in San Francisco has 150 beds in an empty warehouse and if run at full capacity, (including case workers, shelter staff, and security) the average costs run the city $34,482.75 per night, as reported by The Chronicle.
With over 7,000 people facing starvation and homelessness in Oakland, how do they choose who actually gets these? Greg takes the time and meets the people he wants to help. More fortunate citizens unfortunately group together the homeless. They forget that these are still individual citizens of the community. Their names are Sheila, John or Bob and all have unique back stories and personalities. Greg makes a point to go out to meet these people in need, learn about them, make friends and see how these homes can impact their lives. He mostly focuses on many of the women in the homeless community who unforutnately fall pray to serious acts of victimization derived from living without a safe shelter at night.
No real blue prints were laid out in building these homes. Safety and reliability was the main focus, but also creativeness and usefulness. For myself and many others volunteering, it’s sometimes challenging to build a home for someone living on the streets when you yourself have actually never been there. Luckily, Sheila, one of Greg’s early home recipients, was there to provide guidance to builders, offering unique tips as to building hooks on the roof to tie down a tarps or the importance of shelving storage compared to standing room. These unique homes were all outfitted with windows, shelves, a waterproof roof, four walls, a locking front door and an emergency second door.
There are so many conversations around trying to rehabilitate criminals in a jail system that fails to foster positive rehabilitation of the human psyche. Well, how do you think it affects people being rounded up like cattle, their only tents being thrown away and forced to move into an empty warehouse? Wonderful events like these lessen the landfill, bring people together, provide immediate results for someone in need and further builds upon that sense of community everyone is constantly worried about losing.
Thoughts of making this a monthly event are in the works, so make sure to keep an eye out for future Facebook events. For those worried about the negative events that occurred recently in Los Angeles evicting the homeless from similar structures, you’ll be glad to know that the city of Oakland has reached out to the event organizers and are working with them to involve them in their community outreach programs.
To learn more about the wonderful work Greg does and the story behind these homes, check out the video below;