East Oakland, YU’s target area, was once a flourishing middle class community. Changing land-use policies caused an exodus of industry and commerce and the elimination of the high-wage, low skill jobs that residents relied on. Liquor stores, check-cashing agencies, hair and nails shops, and fast food businesses now reside where commercial thoroughfares, banks, and restaurants once thrived.

Despite decades of disinvestment, an unemployment rate twice that of the city, and half of households earning less than $30,000, East Oakland is an exceedingly resilient community. Many residents are active in organized groups and faith organizations and have lived for generations in the neighborhood.

The realities of life for youth in East Oakland, however, are sobering. Over 40% of local young people are not enrolled in school, the rate of teen pregnancies is three times that of the County, and the murder rate is seven times higher than the national average.

YU’s target region is geographically defined as the area south of High Street extending to the city border below MacArthur Blvd—comprising approximately 35 square miles, 27 census tracts, and a population of 120,290 of which youth ages 14-24 comprise 17% (20,629) of the total.

The majority of our 5,000 youth members are from East Oakland and many experience social and economic hardships including:

  • Poverty or homelessness (90%)
  • Involvement with the criminal justice system (84%)
  • Dropped out or at risk of dropping out of school (72%)
  • Involved in or in danger of engaging in high‐risk behaviors such as criminal activity or teen pregnancy (98%)