Artists Build Tiny Homes in Oakland Encampment
Artists Building Communities (ABC) is building tiny homes in Oakland’s homeless encampments to provide emergency shelter to the unhoused population. ABC is a coalition of Oakland artists - both housed and unhoused - and includes musicians, painters, poets, and designers.
The volunteer-run organization built 7 homes in 2020 to meet the growing need for shelter and recently launched a fundraising campaign through GoFundMe to continue their work in 2021. “It is important to give people dignity at any time”, says Dmitry Shusterman, ABC’s Director of Perspectives and Innovation, “I want them to have their community so they can help themselves.”
According to ACHH (Alameda County Healthcare for the Homeless), there are currently close to 10,000 unhoused people in Oakland. This number is projected to rise 30% if the issue of affordable and free housing isn’t addressed.
“We are really experiencing a humanitarian crisis,” says Build Director Luke Swanson, “the intersection of the economic and health impacts of the COVID pandemic and pre-existing housing affordability issues has forced thousands more people out of safe housing. The lack of action from the government on this issue has forced Oakland residents to take matters into their own hands.”
Kellie, the recipient of an ABC tiny house in 2020, has been unhoused for ten years, “the way that we have lived when we don’t have a home isn't always consistent”, she explained, “it’s a fine line you’re walking.” But receiving a tiny home helped her, “rise above all that and start looking at things in a more realistic manner”. Rather than focusing on food for the day or where to sleep, Kellie says, “you have a whole different parameter of things you’re looking at completely”.
Using community sourced donations and volunteer labor, ABC has built 7 emergency tiny homes for $3,000 each in 2020 in encampments on state land in Oakland. Because of the COVID moratorium on camp evictions, encampments that remain within Oakland’s borders have become crucial for the unhoused community which has been forced to the edges of the city because of camp sweeps by the government.
Artists Building Communities is seeking $30,000 in donations through their current GoFundMe campaign to build 7 more tiny homes in the Oakland community. This money is needed for things like building materials, operational costs and fiscal sponsor fees, as is detailed on their campaign website gofundme.com/f/HouseOakland.
ABC Cofounder and Director of Outreach, Annmarie Bustamente described the organizations’ goal, “We think ALL of Oakland’s most vulnerable communities deserve shelter. Not later but NOW. We can do this using the ‘Housing First’ strategy inspired by the successful movement in Utah that housed 100% of their houseless population in less than a year. We hope to inspire the city of Oakland to adopt this mindset.” She believes the time for community action is now. “ABC is tired of waiting for our local governments to do the right thing. It’s time to fix this problem ourselves.”