Oakland-based nonprofit Legal Services for Prisoners with Children has long worked to secure permanent housing for the people recently released from prisons and jails — a need Executive Director Dorsey Nunn sees as particularly pressing in the Bay Area’s tight housing market.
So when Nunn and his organization learned that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office would be releasing hundreds of people from Santa Rita Jail, they knew many of those released would need a place to stay. To date, he said, they have secured 50 hotel and motel rooms for people coming out of Santa Rita using their emergency fund, fueled by community donations.
They’re working to address what they see as a gap in state and local officials’ response to the coronavirus pandemic: As many counties release hundreds of people from jail, trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many of those people are at risk of winding up on the streets.
“This thing is happening all over the country, that they're being released because (counties are) trying to depress the county jail population and the prison population,” Nunn, who was once incarcerated himself, said. “It doesn't mean that they had a damn plan of what to do after you release them.”
While Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to provide 15,000 hotel rooms to homeless people particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the state has not come close to filling those rooms. And Newsom's plan, Project Roomkey, does not explicitly address people recently released from county jails.