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September 24, 2013 > Madeline could have been homeless, but sheÕs not

Madeline could have been homeless, but sheÕs not

Madeline was born on a sunny day in May 2013. Her birth was unremarkable, but her parent's journey prior to that date was and still is reflective of the need for change. Madeline's parents were homeless and continue to seek a permanent housing solution. However, thanks to connecting her parents with a network of temporary housing opportunities, Madeline has never spent a night on the street and is healthy and happy. The family's connection to services came through local meal programs which, in Hayward, coordinate through the Hayward Community Action Network (CAN).

CAN acts as a safety net to empower those who are unaware of or ineligible for existing services and assists them in achieving self-sufficiency. Without the meal programs, Madeline's parents may not have been able to connect with the medical care and temporary housing that have ensured her safety.

On October 1st, the Hayward City Council will consider a permitting process for the outdoor meal programs in downtown Hayward. While regulating food service to those in need may appear innocuous on its surface, the proposal does little to alleviate identified community concerns, which include fights and debris (especially human waste). These issues generally do not occur during meal program operations. Instead, a centralized resource, recovery, and re-engagement center can facilitate connections to food, shelter, counseling, and services as well as provide opportunities for those in need to use their skills through productive engagement.

"I walk hours each day to eat," said one meal program participant who utilizes meal and service sites between Hayward and San Leandro. "That doesn't leave much time for job searching." Said another participant, "I spend 80% of my income for housing and receive less than $20 per month in food stamps. I rely on meal programs to get by."

Many cities across the country have also identified the need for collaborative, productive solutions. However, some cities in the Bay Area are looking towards punitive actions that address symptoms rather than root causes. "Productivity, not Permits" Ñ a Hayward petition campaign Ñ along with the Western Regional Advocacy Project and the National Coalition for the Homeless are advocating for hygiene and resource centers. Their message: "It's time to stop criminalizing poverty."


Sara Lamnin
Hayward Community Action Network

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