I first met Kymberli last year while I was visiting a homeless camp in Oakland. Kym was washing her dishes with a garden house. Almost a year to the day, I interviewed Kymberli and her husband B (Lenton is his real name) in front of the shack they turned into a home living on the side of the road. They even gave us a tour in this VR180 video and you can vide their original video here.
Kymberli and Lenton now live in an RV thanks to Operation HomeBase, a program run by the City of Oakland that provides trailers to adults over 65 that are at risk of COVID-19. The difference that a safe place to sleep and shower makes is amazing! They are still homeless but living in a small trailer with running water, bathrooms with showers, and privacy has improved their lives tremendously.
Both Kymberli and Lenton are looking forward to the next step. They want to pay rent. They want a place of their own. They do not want to be homeless anymore. Thanks to the help of Operation HomeBase and the generous support from people on YouTube and the several of their landscaping clients helping them to raise money, they are looking to purchase a car and a commercial truck to grow their business.
It took a little bit of time for Kymberli and Lenton to agree to transition to the RV. One huge roadblock to homeless support is people are not able to keep their belongings. For example, shelters only allow two small bags, and for the shelters that kick people out every day, homeless people have to carry their bags with them.
One thing the coronavirus has shown is that the State of California can make helping homeless people a priority. Programs like Project Roomkey and Operation HomeBase are cost-effective solutions to get people off the streets. The programs are not perfect, and it’s not housing, but seeing the difference Kymberli and Lenton is validation. Homeless people need a safe place to sleep with bathrooms that provide dignity as an alternative to sleeping outside on a sidewalk.