Oakland’s homeless population is on the rise and the faith community is struggling with how to balance empathy with safety. A homeless encampment with approximately 25 families is located just behind Parks Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 476 34 St., in West Oakland.
Since the arrival of the encampment there have been fires, with smoke entering the church and setting off fire alarms, dogs chasing elderly parishioners, stolen mail and tithes, and a murder. Encampment residents have tapped into the church’s electrical box and stolen electricity from the church, raising the church’s power bill.
On May 19, Rev. Dr. Rosalynn Brookins, pastor of Parks Chapel AME Church, addressed a crowd of parishioners and news crews, about the issues that the local community is facing with the increasing homelessness, crime and dangerous conditions surrounding the church property. Through tears, she pleaded for help from the City of Oakland, who has fallen short on promises to address the issues that come with the rise of homelessness.
Carroll Fife, councilwoman for the 3rd District, promised to make this issue a priority. She said she would be the voice of the AME community when it came to pushing other Oakland politicians to do what is needed to tackle this problem. Fife has plans to build more housing for the homeless and is currently working on getting approval to build on land owned by CalTrans.
Rev. Dr. Rodney Smith, First African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Oakland, gave the Invocation.