BOSS: Ending Poverty

TACKLING MASS-HOMELESSNESS, MASS-INCARCERATION, AND COMMUNITY VIOLENCE

BOSS’S EVOLVING VISION & 48-YEAR COMMITMENT TO SOCIAL JUSTICE

On June 21st 2019, BOSS was featured in the 23rd season of The Visionaries (https://www.visionaries.org), a documentary series that hand-picks extraordinary non-profits around the world that create unique and effective changes within their communities. The documentary was created by the spectacular Visionaries filmmaking team (led by Jody Santos) in collaboration with BOSS staff, who hosted the filmmakers in visiting BOSS sites and interviewing Board, staff, and program participants about BOSS’s work and impact.

For 48 years, BOSS had developed into a leader in the field of fighting mass-homelessness and poverty – growing from a single outreach team on the streets of Berkeley into a County-wide, multi-program, award winning institution. When current Executive Director Donald Frazier joined the organization in 2013, he built on BOSS’s expertise and reputation to take the organization deeper into the field of fighting mass-incarceration and community violence as a natural evolution of the organization’s history of and commitment to social, racial, and economic equity and justice. 

Today BOSS provides proven solutions to mass-homelessness, mass-incarceration, and community violence. The organization is dedicated to the inclusion of people marginalized by addiction, trauma, criminality, incarceration, poverty, sexism, homelessness, and violence. The Visionaries documentary offered the opportunity to share BOSS’s history and new direction with the world.

In the documentary, Donald Frazier was quoted saying, “From our perspective, it’s about respect and love, having a sense of belonging, and feeling safe.” These are the four cornerstones of principality from which BOSS operates and is also what the organization emulates for all participants. As they gather their trust and place it in the hands of BOSS, the following innovative strategies work to assist them in overcoming the systemic and/or circumstantial barriers that hinder their social mobility, providing opportunities to enhance their quality of life:

SOLUTIONS TO MASS HOMELESSNESS:

1) Permanent Supportive Housing: BOSS increases supportive housing by master leasing and developing residential properties to provide supported independent living for disabled homeless  Alameda County residents. Currently, BOSS operates, manages and provides services on-site in 5 permanent supportive housing properties totaling 50 units in Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward and San Leandro, with 55 additional units online to activate by 2020.

2) Shelter and Interim Housing: BOSS’s goal is to expand shelter and interim housing capacity in Alameda County. Currently, BOSS operates 147 temporary (interim housing/shelter) beds at programs that include meals, laundry, showers, and on-site supportive services and case management to help residents locate and acquire permanent housing. 

3) Housing Navigation Assistance: BOSS’s goal is to increase Housing Navigation and Representative Payee service capacity countywide for disabled citizens. Currently, BOSS provides housing navigation services that include step-by-step housing goal planning, access to housing listings, help filling out applications, advocacy with landlords, housing education classes, help finding roommates, move in assistance, limited rental subsidies. 

IN PROGRESS: BOSS is currently seeking partners and investors to help us purchase and develop multi-unit properties including but not limited to: Tw 3 BR/2 BA houses in East Oakland; 40 units on University Ave in Berkeley; 6 units and a 3 BR/2 BA house in West Oakland; Tuff sheds aligned with the City of Oakland methodology; Expanding the 15 beds at Hope Reentry Campus in East Oakland to 44.

SOLUTIONS TO MASS-INCARCERATION:

1) Education and Employment: BOSS’s goal is to expand our current education and employment capacity to serve 3,000 reentry participants annually at the BOSS Career Training and Employment Center (CTEC). CTEC provides a safe and supportive “soft landing” for citizens returning from incarceration who are traumatized, full of hopelessness and mistrust, and lacking confidence, skills, and social support. CTEC is staffed with 95% of individuals with lived experience in the justice system — they know what participants are going through and what it takes to succeed. 

2) Reentry Housing: HOPE REENTRY CAMPUS is BOSS’s new reentry housing program in East Oakland providing 15 interim housing beds with on-site services, including peer support groups, computer lab, case management, and health/mental services. The long term vision includes increasing housing capacity and developing into a social enterprise with a classroom, social services, and recreation space.

3) Peer Engagement: BOSS’s goal is to increase peer engagement capacity to justice involved individuals. For Us By Us (FUBU), a BOSS created peer support team, has demonstrated that individuals with lived experience are the most effective role models and motivators to a population returning home from incarceration and experiencing deep hopelessness, mistrust, and trauma.

IN PROGRESS: BOSS is working with property owners and developers to bring additional reentry housing units online county-wide, and has been recommended for funding from the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) to provide rental assistance, case management and employment services to the reentry population in Oakland and Berkeley.

SOLUTIONS TO COMMUNITY VIOLENCE:

1) Outreach and Violence Prevention: BOSS’s goal is to develop a citywide Neighborhood Safety Program that incorporates credible messengers and cultural influencers recruited from identified stressor beats in the city and activated with resource centers that address key social determinants of health in each neighborhood.

2) Reclaiming Our Cities (ROC): The Street Outreach Team created by BOSS employs Violence Interrupters — individuals with lived experience in street organizations who are now engaged in helping others escape the cycle of violence. They provide life-changing support including but not limited to: violence mediation sessions; community events (BBQs, picnics, block parties); health/mental health fairs/ referrals; education/employment fairs/referrals; voter education/registration.

PARTNERS OF BOSS:

Partners of BOSS include but are not limited to: Alameda County  (Behavioral Health, Social Services Agency, and Probation), Alameda County Health Care Service Agency, Housing Authorities, Berkeley Mental Health, Oakland Housing Authorities, the City of Oakland, the City of Berkeley, La Familia Counseling Services, Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, Just Cities and Eastside Arts Alliance, Five Keys School and Programs, Peralta Community College District, Cypress Mandela Training Program, Checkr, 100+ Employer partners, private property owners, and investors, community volunteers and individual donors.

Looking to learn more of what BOSS does, how you can donate, collaborate, or get more involved? Visit https://self-sufficiency.org or contact us at 510-649-1930 or email info@self-sufficiency.org.