In between another fight breaking out in the community center, spending nearly half the day on hold by service agencies and of course the many new, jobless clients coming in, I’m physically and emotionally drained. The line outside of the Alameda County Social Services filtered out the door and around the block, a typical Monday morning scene and reminder of the extreme need amongst many Oakland residents.
While waiting on hold for several shelter referrals, I studied up on Social Security Income (SSI), Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamps since so many clients depend on these sources. Typically, someone on SSI receives around $850 a month, which seems like a lot, but then they cannot receive Food Stamps. I have heard of many clients paying upwards of $200/week for a motel room which leaves them for about $50 for food, transportation, medicine, etc. The waiting list for affordable housing projects in Oakland is long and the process is tedious, requiring a voucher from the county social service office (which often means more waiting on hold and leaving endless voicemails). There are many resources I’m trying my best to keep up on because as I’m painfully realizing, there isn’t much room for a learning curve when you’re face to face with a person (homeless for the first time) who hasn’t the slightest idea of where to sleep tonight. For many, I am reminded on my way home as I spot a woman and her children sleeping in a curbed car with the windows open, home is on four wheels.