Bay Area Outreach
O! Sairam! Where have all the tents gone!! exclaimed a Sai youth upon arriving one fine morning in Oakland where they usually found a lot of homeless tents.
As the mornings had been very cold over the past few weeks in the Bay Area, the Sai youth decided to make and distribute hot vegetable soup to the homeless residents of Oakland. One of the sisters baked sweet bread for them too.
The youth drove to Oakland to the usual place where they see a lot of homeless tents. When they reached the spot, they were surprised to see no homeless encampment! Thankfully a Sai brother noticed a homeless person walking into a fenced area nearby, which was secured and locked, and noticed a lot of sheds or artificial temporary homes that are good for two people each. He walked out and spoke to the security guard there on the whereabouts of the homeless encampment. The guard mentioned that all the people staying at the camp had been moved into sheds – about 20 sheds that house around 40 people here.
The youth drove to another place in Oakland where they usually find a homeless encampment. That encampment had not yet been moved, and they parked on the streets and went out to distribute the hot soup to the residents in the tents. The volunteers woke up the people sleeping in the tents by calling out for a hot soup and happy morning! Soon, the soup serving was done and people were very thankful to receive the soup. The youth also met a lady who was sleeping in a park nearby. She shared her story, that she was let go by a nearby shelter that was closed down, and now every night she had to sleep in the park and go around places during the day. She mentioned one thing which stuck with our youth. Even though she was out on the streets, she said, "It’s all good and okay here!"
After serving everybody breakfast, the youth drove to the previous tiny home area that had been set up for the homeless. They met the site manager and explained about the Sai Ashraya programme and how they had been serving the homeless and the youth over the past few years with food and employment. The site manager was really happy to learn about the programme and he readily agreed to allow the youth to serve the remaining soup to the residents of the tiny homes. The site manager also shared a lot of info about the tiny homes:
Operation Dignity, based in Oakland, is the organisation that helps to manage the site. There are about 20 tiny homes in this site, which helps to house up to 40 homeless people. All the folks staying here were moved from the nearby street, and there was another similar site in Oakland as well. The manager mentioned that these people can stay here for six months and receive case management as well from the site manager. The organisation also helps them to get jobs and become independent in six months." The Sai youth approached the head of the organisation, and the youth will now be serving dinner at this site every first Saturday of the month, and in the future they plan to expand services to another site as well in Oakland.
A youth shared his experience about how everything was planned beautifully by Bhagawan and how HE is helping Sai Ashraya to work with other organisations.