A group of Oakland residents developed a creative way to attack the city’s burgeoning housing crisis. They built their own “community center” at a homeless encampment beneath a highway overpass.
“It’s sort of like a little oasis in the middle of nowhere that makes you feel like maybe you’re normal again,” John Janosko, who lives in a trailer in the encampment, told the paper, which described the development “like something out of a fairy tale.”
One publication describes an idyllic setting:
“Winding stone pathways connect the structures and are bordered by little gardens of herbs, greens, and flowers. The kitchen has a stove, sink with running water, shelving full of bread and a refrigerator full of food. Herbs and emergency medical supplies fill the clinic. The shower’s water runs hot.”
Amenities reportedly include pizza oven, fire pit and open mic nights.
The village challenges local regulations, zoning laws, health ordinances and safety issues.
The Oakland city auditor in April released a report that highlighted a litany of problems that plague the city’s estimated 140 homeless communities, including: 1,599 interventions for “hygiene and garbage services” from 2018 to 2020, 1,458 police calls and 988 fires over the same period.
Cob on the Wood advocates hope the village mitigates many of those problems.
“This place and what we created can serve as a model for other encampments across Oakland, across the nation and across the world,” Xochitl Bernadette Moreno, co-founder and director of the grassroots group Essential Food and Medicine, told the Mercury News.
Her group helped build Cob on the Wood with two other activist organizations, Living Earth Structures and Artists Building Communities.