An abstract artistic rendering of the U.S. depicted as a pig lying underground and consuming a jail.
(Enera Wilson)

I must start off by saying I laughed when I heard that Alameda County agreed to lease the City of Oakland use of the Old North County Jail for $1.00 a year. Would the officials who had this idea stay in North County? Exactly how it is that this is an option just because someone else feels like, “well it’s better than where you are now so this is what I have to offer you, take it or leave it”? The jail was intended for people to be housed there as a form of punishment. It was not intended for unhoused individuals, which also includes minors who are in extreme need of housing assistance.

The county’s so-called offer isn’t even a half of a step forward to housing the unhoused. Opening more shelters isn’t housing the unhoused, it’s shuffling them somewhere for the short term until they are shuffled around again. Many just end up back on the street instead.

The county as well as the city need to propose a plan to renovate the old jail into an apartment building for the unhoused community and charge them extremely below market rent. They need to stop thinking that the plans and actions that they have been doing have had any type of effect on the issue. The amounts they generate for all the ridiculous projects they come up with should be all focused on providing permanent housing for the unhoused that remains affordable without any type of catch.

The whole thought process to even think this is an okay proposal has to be that everyone who lives on the street is not worth more than shoving them in a closed jail house, similar to taking a stray animal to the pound. The only di erence, society loves an- imals not the unhoused. Oh well hey, they live on the streets anyway they are going to be so happy when they get the chance to come inside. No, all the unhoused residents are not happy at all. Some of us are insulted that the county would devalue and declassify us to that extent.

My opinion? I would never sleep inside of North County the way it
is. North County brings back bad memories for a lot of homeless people, including myself. The incidents that occurred there didn’t always involve inmates either. They also involved offices who did too much all because of their sense of power. The jail makes you feel so uncomfortable when you are forced to live there due to your actions, I’m not even going to imagine living inside just because the county, the city, and society says it’s better than me being outside where they can see me.

Markaya Spikes is an advocate and single mother who is changing the narrative of homelessness.