The past year threw into sharp relief the vulnerability of people experiencing homelessness in our community – and Operation Dignity responded by not only sustaining current programs, but expanding our services to meet the urgent need.
When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, people experiencing homelessness faced a life-or-death crisis. In Oakland alone, more than 4,000 people (as of a 2019 point-in-time count) meet each night without a safe place to sleep. And these individuals were among the groups most vulnerable to COVID: 12% of those experiencing homelessness in Oakland are over 60, and more than one in three have at least one disability.
As COVID shelter-in-place orders took effect, meal sites and service locations throughout the city closed their doors – leaving those 4,000 people suddenly without a reliable meal, bed, or chance to find critical information about the pandemic and how to keep themselves safe.
Our team immediately jumped in to fill the gap. Operation Dignity’s street outreach staff distributed thousands of bagged lunches, masks, bottles of hand sanitizer, and hygiene kits to hundreds of people who were without shelter. During a tumultuous and confusing time, we have kept more than 400 residents at our shelters safe and healthy, and kept all our programs open to serve people who had nowhere else to go. In fact, despite the challenges the past year presented, we successfully placed 84% of the veterans who exited our transitional housing into permanent housing, ending their homelessness.
Most importantly, we helped lead Alameda County’s successful push to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 among the unhoused population. As of April 2021, out of 7,585 COVID tests administered to County residents experiencing homelessness, less than 2% came back positive, indicating that most unhoused people were successfully protected from the virus. Our collaborative efforts – to share COVID-prevention information, provide for clients’ basic needs, and offer shelter – saved lives.
Your support and generosity during this uncertain time have been amazing. Thank you so much – your donations are more important now than ever.