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Out of the cold: Shelter for homeless youth planned on Hayward school property

Covenant House California will rent the property to house 30 young people

By PETER HEGARTY | | Bay Area News Group

PUBLISHED: April 2, 2021 at 6:20 a.m. | UPDATED: April 2, 2021 at 6:23 a.m.

HAYWARD — Up to 30 homeless young people could have a place to temporarily stay as early as this summer.

Covenant House California, a nonprofit that provides emergency shelter for youth 18 to 24, plans to install nine pre-made, portable-style buildings on a portion of property that the Hayward Unified School District owns at 27211 Tyrrell Ave.

“I am extremely supportive of this project,” Mayor Barbara Halliday said, noting that she believes it will help young people emerging from the foster care system with limited housing resources. “I am glad we are able to do this, providing a safe place for them to get shelter and services.”

The goal is to have the Hayward location up and running by July, Bill Bedrossian, CEO of Covenant House California, told the City Council on Feb. 23, when it unanimously approved declaring a homeless shelter crisis and took action to help speed the housing project forward.

Young people who previously lived or worked within the Hayward school district will get preference for 50% of the 30 beds.

“It’s a really, really big deal,” said the Rev. Dr. Arlene K. Nehring of Hayward’s Eden United Church of Christ, who campaigned for the project. “We have needed a youth shelter and a place for them to get services for transitional housing in southern Alameda County for years.”

Nehring said in an interview that the effort has been in the works for about three years.

It emerged from discussions within the South Alameda County Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth & Children in Migrant Families Collaborative, which is made up of 75 school, social service, religious and elected leaders who wanted to help young people who have fled civil wars, collapsing economies and the illegal drug trade.

Nehring worked with Aaron Ortiz, the CEO of La Familia, which is part of the collaborative; Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle; and representatives from Covenant House to identify possible locations for the housing.

The support the homeless youth project received touched her, Nehring said.

“I have never been more proud to be associated with Hayward,” she said.

The one-acre site is part of the school district’s Student Information and Assessment Center. Covenant House will be renting the Hayward school property for an initial annual rent of $100,000. The amount will gradually increase to reach $110,000 at the end of the 10-year lease.

“We are thrilled to work collaboratively with our community partners to provide this much-needed service for immigrant and homeless youth,” Hayward Superintendent Matt Wayne said via an email. “This project reflects our district’s core values of equity and community service.”

According to the 2019 Point-in-Time Count, which is carried out every two years to gauge the number of homeless in Alameda County, there are 487 homeless people in Hayward, of whom 76% are unsheltered. The results also showed that 8% were under age 18 and 6% were 18 to 24 years old.

No count was done this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Covenant House, a nonprofit started in 1988, also operates a youth shelter on Harrison Street in Oakland’s Jack London Square neighborhood, as well as others in California and throughout the country. Young people are selected to stay in a Covenant House location through recommendations from Alameda County officials and social service agencies, Bedrossian told the council. Some also arrive by word-of-mouth.

“It’s first come, first served,” he said.

The typical stay is 45 to 65 days, then the person is transitioned into more permanent housing.

Each one-story building at the Hayward site will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and eight of them will be used to house the young people. The staff, who will manage the site and will stay overnight, will be in the ninth building, which also will be set aside for classrooms and offices.

The school board approved the arrangement in November.

“The Hayward Unified School District has offered up their real estate to assist Covenant House in providing shelter to the youth in our community,” April Oquenda, school board president, said in an email to council members. “If the city can expedite the process by extending this declaration of a shelter crisis, then one of our most vulnerable populations in Hayward will have housing secured hopefully by the end of summer (before the cold season sets in).”

Money that Alameda County receives from the federal government is paying for the buildings, Nehring said. County funds allocated for social services will cover the cost of running the Hayward project, Nehring said.


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