Resource fair draws huge turnout

March 3, 2016 1:27 PM
Homelessness

An attendee of the East Bay Homeless Connect Resource Fair waits to get access to resources.

The booths at the East Bay Homeless Connect Resource Fair were already closing up shop by 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19. Resources were tapped early as volunteers had assisted an enormous crowd throughout the day.

Homeless

The fair was put together by Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Albany High School, and East Bay Homeless Connect. Students from Albany High School and members of BOSS all volunteered to hand out resources and offer their support to the homeless. Originally expecting 100 to 150 people, but prepared for nearly 500, the volunteers were still overwhelmed with a huge swell of folks hoping for resources ranging from two-week hotel vouchers, to HIV and diabetes testing, to foot massages and haircuts. There were also meals, clothing, music and entertainment, dental and eye exams, general check-ups, a Section 8 lottery, and several booths offering free cell phones from California Lifeline.

Fair

Before the doors for the fair were opened there were already an estimated 700 people waiting to get in, many of whom had camped out in front of the door. One young BOSS volunteer and Berkeley student named Calixtho said he had personally spoken to and assisted at least 150 people in just a few hours.

Cleaning

A nurse from Alta-Bates Hospital providing diabetes and HIV testing couldn’t even estimate how many people she’d seen, saying it was definitely “in the hundreds.” Even though she was clearly exhausted from the work of the day, she offered me a blood pressure test, insisting that everyone needs to take care of themselves.

Food

I declined, but her kind concern did not go unnoticed; not by myself and surely not by the hundreds of uninsured homeless people she had seen that afternoon.
During the last weekend of February a local West Oakland collective called NIMBY held another successful event to benefit the homeless.

Books

While BOSS handed out much needed resources, NIMBY gathered people together to build tiny homes on wheels for Oakland’s homeless using recycled and unwanted materials. The collective’s warehouse lot hosted dozens of builders and volunteers as they put the homes together. Most of the materials were used from scraps left and discarded from Superbowl city, the construction of which involved booting many homeless people from their makeshift shelters on the street.

Free Clothing

The project was such a success the city of Oakland has asked NIMBY to donate more tiny homes that can be distributed to the homeless through official programs.

Organizations like East Bay Homeless Connect, BOSS, and NIMBY are making a lot of positive changes in the community for the homeless despite chronic underfunding and often fierce public apathy. Fairs like this one are remarkably helpful, not just for the individuals being serviced, but also for raising awareness in the community about the turbulence and trials faced by the homeless.

BOSS executive director, Donald Frazier blames a lot of the current lack of awareness and action to help the homeless on the fact that, “the population we are speaking of doesn’t have a vote.”

Volunteers

Homeless people are some of the most severely disenfranchised in our society. Frazier hopes events like the Homeless Resource Fair will not only provide important immediate resources, but also give a desperately needed voice to the homeless.
To find out what you can do to help end homelessness visit the BOSS website at self-sufficiency.org.

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