Make a Difference

Alameda Point Collaborative board member Kathryn Sáenz Duke talks about how to end homelessness and poverty.


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Photo by Dave Strauss

While homelessness abounds in the Bay Area, Alameda offers shelter to families and individuals in need through the Alameda Point Collaborative. This supportive housing community collaborative brings housing, education, safety, nourishment, and dignity to the young and old, using its resources to put an end to homelessness and poverty. Kathryn Sáenz Duke, an APC board member and volunteer who assists with children at APC, offers insight into this underappreciated program.

 

How did Alameda Point Collaborative get started?

Alameda Point Collaborative began in 1999, thanks to local people who wanted to help support homeless individuals and families through the McKinney-Vento Act regarding land use after a military base closure. APC leases land from the city of Alameda, then provides housing and supportive services to create communities where formerly homeless families and individuals can change their lives and flourish. These services include job training, youth education, financial management, and family therapy. With the security of permanent housing, plus access to supportive services, APC residents can overcome the symptoms of homelessness, achieving independence and self-sustainability. It’s a real opportunity to make a difference in these people’s lives and for our whole community to benefit from the resilience of adults and children overcoming very difficult situations.

 

Who is part of APC?

At APC, we house 363 residents; 204 of them are children and youth. Just before arriving at APC, 43 percent of our residents have come from emergency shelters, 35 percent from transitional housing, and 22 percent from places not meant for human habitation. These are people truly in need of assistance and grateful to have a safe place to call home. We also work closely with two other nonprofit organizations whose clients live in our immediate neighborhood: Building Futures With Women and Children and Operation Dignity.

 

What services does APC offer?

APC’s children and youth department provides services to 70 percent of APC youth every weekday during the school year and all day during summer and school breaks. Activities include tutoring, academic field trips, and a focus on life-skills building, social-emotional intelligence, and healthy communication. The elementary school-age children and teens each have their own special space at APC, with staff and often volunteers to help them. These young participants learn about some of the possibilities for their future and can hope to take advantage of some of those opportunities. Other APC programs provide resources for adult residents to enter and succeed in the job market. We work hard to put our residents on a path to success. Our on-the-job-training program trains and employs APC residents for six months within various parts of APC. These residents learn important skills of teamwork, communication, and accountability. It’s inspiring to see how practicing these basic skills can change people’s opportunities, which can then change their life.

 

Tell me about your involvement with APC.

I’ve been volunteering in the APC children’s education center for the last five years. The two words I might use to describe those children are “challenges” and “resilience.” Quite honestly, I get more than I give when I am with the kids there. Many of their life experiences are different from those that I, my children, and grandchildren have had. But at the same time, these children and youths have the same curiosity, energy, and desire to connect with other people. We staffers and volunteers encourage and assist them with their schoolwork and sometimes sports. Also, we try to create positive interactions between them and people outside the APC community. These kids are amazingly resilient and inspiring. I have also been an APC board member for some years. It’s exciting for all of us—residents, staff, board, the larger Alameda community—to move ahead with plans to finally replace APC’s crumbling housing. We’ve been working with a leading nonprofit housing developer to help us plan for rebuilding the deteriorating housing that our residents have been using since the Navy left Alameda Point in the 1990s.

 

How can Alameda residents support APC?

There are many ways to get involved with APC. Sometimes groups of businesses, co-workers, or church groups come for an intense one-day or one-week volunteer experiences, often at two of APC’s social enterprises: APC’s Farm2Market program or Ploughshares Plant Nursery. These volunteers get firsthand experience with special projects or some of the ongoing tasks of these two outdoor operations. Another opportunity is to engage directly with APC youth. Community volunteers can tutor and assist with homework (especially reading and math). Or we can focus on cooking, art, sports, outdoor activities, yoga, science, or other enrichment activities. But even if you don’t have time or opportunity to volunteer, any community member can support our social enterprises by purchasing plants at the Ploughshares Nursery (near Alameda’s main ferry terminal) and buying our farm’s produce, a community supported agriculture program. Also, everyone is invited to attend our annual Farm to Table dinner. Guests come to our farm to enjoy a specially prepared meal that uses produce from APC’s farm and gives guests a chance to hear directly from APC residents and volunteers who have done outstanding work. There’s always a way to help support the work of APC.

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