Oakland woman tells her story of overcoming homelessness

- A network of nonprofits, social services and individuals are banding together to help get the homeless get off the streets, one person at a time.

There is a success story involving a homeless woman named Mitzi Lewis. She is now in an apartment after an outreach effort in East Oakland. Lewis shares her journey in hopes of helping others.

She says the sounds of a BART train were ever present while she lived in the encampment along 77th Avenue at Hawley, an industrial area of East Oakland.   

 "This street is dangerous," says Lewis as she points to where she was living out of a tent. But  just last week, Lewis says was able to get off the streets with the help of a nonprofit, which found her a subsidized apartment and support from a network of social service workers.  

"Really, actually I'm just glad to be out," says Lewis,"It's hard for me to see that I actually came to this point."

She says she's grateful to people such as Candice Elder, the founder of East Oakland Collective. The organization does outreach at encampments, connecting the homeless with resources and giving them meals.

Elder applauds Oakland city and community leaders who came together Monday night to discuss a range of proposals to help people get off the streets.

"We all need to come together and help out to shelter our brother and sisters," says Elder, "We have to act yesterday. The problem is only going to keep growing. We have to do more."  

More for Lewis means a one bedroom apartment.

She says she suffers serious health problems including multiple sclerosis and congestive heart failure.

Lewis says the death of her 11-year-old daughter Contessa after a grand mal seizure led to her downward spiral a few years ago. Now, she has a new beginning.

"I don't have to worry about being cold, about being hungry. I don't have to worry about looking over my shoulders," says Lewis.  

She thinks city leaders can do more.

"Get up off your behind. Get out of those buildings downtown Oakland. Get out of the mayor's office.  Get you a tent. Get you a sleeping bag. Come out there and spend the night with us. You will see what we're going through," says Lewis. 

She and Elder say there is hope and help and that the key is determination and connecting with resources that do exist. 

They say anyone can help, whether it be individually or volunteering with friends and co-workers.

For more information go to: www.eastoaklandcollective.com/

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