Alameda Point Collaborative to gain new teen center

Alameda Point Collaborative to gain new teen center

Michele Ellson
Alameda Point Collaborative

The Alameda Association of Realtors selects a local cause to support each year and for 2012, they’ve chosen the Alameda Point Collaborative. Its major effort will be the construction of a new teen center in a former Collaborative office space on Orion Street.

“It’s just really a community project. It’s kind of exciting,” said Justine Francis, the association’s community outreach chair and the organizer of the project.

Times have been tough for local residents and business owners who are typically quick to contribute to local causes, Francis said, as well as for Realtors who have struggled through a bear housing market. So instead of hosting a fundraiser, the association opted to take on a hands-on project.

“I looked at it and said, ‘We’ve got 250 able-bodied people that can roll up their sleeves,’” Francis said. “So what do we do? Let’s roll up our sleeves, get in at ground level.”

The Collaborative, which offers permanent and transitional homes to 500 formerly homeless people at the Point, is of unique interest to the association, Francis said, because it provides housing. The association is one of several groups that have pitched in to help out at the Collaborative this year – groups that have included employees from ConAgra Foods, Charles Schwab, Walmart and Genentech.

But the nonprofit, which enjoys widespread support on the Island, is unique among housing outfits for its very existence and for all the services it provides.

The Collaborative was founded in 1999 to manage housing for the homeless on the former Naval base; under federal law, homeless assistance has top priority among potential uses for decommissioned military bases. Executive Director Doug Biggs said many cities and counties whose military bases were shuttered offered a cash payment instead of land and buildings homeless assistance organizations could use; he said those that did receive land are typically smaller than the Collaborative and are focused on basic shelter instead of services or permanent housing.

But the Collaborative has become a $3 million a year operation offering much more than housing or even the job training, counseling and other transitional services that housing organizations have grown to offer in an effort to get people back on their feet. In addition to owning or managing more than 200 units at the Point, the Collaborative oversees social enterprises that include Ploughshares Nursery – which is getting an eco-friendly, $300,000 retail center this year – and a commercial kitchen. It also birthed the Cycles of Change bicycle shop, which recently spun off on its own and is supporting the Collaborative by paying rent.

“There’s hardly any (organizations) doing transitional housing like we are,” said Biggs, who has worked at the Collaborative for eight years and run it since 2008.

Biggs said the Collaborative’s residents are deeply involved in creating and managing many of its activities; he said residents are on the nonprofit’s board and staff roster, are active in program planning and employed by its enterprises. He said the idea for the teen center came about after the community’s teens said they needed a space of their own.

“We kicked around ideas, and the youth were very excited about it,” said Biggs. The center will offer a computer lab and space for workshops, a counselor and just hanging out for the Collaborative’s 80-plus teens.

The teens will work hand in hand with the Realtors Association to perform all the landscaping, painting and hauling for the project, which Francis estimated will cost about $20,000. The association is also collecting all the donations – everything from computers to furniture. Demolition work was set to begin this week.

Francis said the association’s commitment to the Collaborative extends beyond their shared interest in housing. She sees a community that needs the association’s help, one they have an innate responsibility toward.

“People are very unaware that we’ve got 500 people living out in that community. They’re part of our community,” Francis said.

The Alameda Association of Realtors is seeking donations for the Alameda Point Collaborative and also volunteers to help them build its new teen center on the week of August 20-24. Anyone interested in making a cash donation, donating items needed for the teen center or volunteering can e-mail Justine Francis at


Submitted by Sylvia Gibson on Wed, Aug 8, 2012

The Alameda Point Collaborative genuinely supports teens from the community. As a teacher, I have had students who worked in the garden-- learning about healthy food choices while earning cash and job skills. I also have had students who received tutoring through APC and I hope that homework support will be part of the new teen center. I applaud the Alameda Association of Realators for choosing the teen center as their focus for community service!