They Come By Bus to West Oakland

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to visit St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County’s Women’s Center. It was a full circle experience for me, since HAMO started as a result of learningthat mothers in our own community were taking the bus across town to receive emergency diapers for their baby. It simply broke our hearts, and still does, to learn that something many of us take for granted … having enough diapers for our own baby … could be lacking in another mother’s life.

I arrived on a rainy Friday morning and met their Director of Development, Katharine Miller for the tour of their west Oakland facility, located off West Grand Avenue. I brought 4 cases of diapers, courtesy of our Amazon donors.

According to SVdP’s website “Alameda County is home to a disproportionate number of low-income households in the Bay Area:”

The downtown Oakland neighborhood that houses the SVdP Community Center and Free Dining Room is one of the most distressed in Northern California. Nearly a third of area residents subsist on incomes below the poverty threshold. Nearly half of single-mother households in the area live below the poverty line. Those who eat at the SVdP Dining Room have an average income of little more than $5,000 per year.

Katharine, Sonya, and Amanda of SVdP were kind enough to talk with me about diaper need in the community. Here’s an impromptu interview with Sonya and Amanda:

SVdP’s Women’s Center currently is able to give out 8 diapers per family, twice a month. Moms take the bus from all over Oakland, Berkeley, and even Richmond to SVdP in order to receive diapers, a few pairs of children’s clothing, and to do laundry in the center’s laundromat. Those familiar with Alameda county can probably guess how long it would take a single mom and her kids (not to mention with laundry) to take the bus down to west Oakland. Awhile.

I was inspired by the truly amazing work the staff  of SVdP and their cadre of dedicated volunteers carry out everyday. And yet, I was deeply saddened by the fact that so many women spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to acquire basic needs for their children.

It simply is an injustice.

I wish that I could have come with a truckload of diapers, ready to hand out a pack of 30 diapers to the homeless single mom who had arrived with her young child while I was there. She was about 6 months pregnant.

Inspired to act? You can help us continue our diaper program by making a monetary donation here, or if you prefer, ship diapers directly to us through our wishlist, or drop ‘em off in person. For those in California, you can participate in our state-wide diaper drive December 1-14th.

Photo courtesy of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County.