The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC) and Restaurants Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) have joined forces to develop and launch a replicable and innovative restorative economics and restorative justice hub in East Oakland. Restore Oakland was developed to address two broken systems negatively impacting low-income communities of color in America: the disproportionate rate of incarceration and the lack of upward economic mobility within the restaurant industry.

One of the largest and fastest-growing employers in the United States, the restaurant industry has the potential to provide living wage jobs to its workforce. Despite this, people of color, formerly incarcerated people, and immigrants face significant barriers in stepping into the more visible, and higher paying, roles in the industry. While many restaurant workforce development efforts focus on back-of-house employment, ROC United prepares marginalized communities to be front-and-center in the restaurant industry.

The excessive and inequitable incarceration that impacts communities of color results in barriers including discrimination, broken community economic systems and separated families. According to the 2010 census, African Americans and Latinos made up less than 30% of the national population yet account for nearly 60% of prison populations.

EBC and ROC United established Restore Oakland to increase economic security for low-income people of color, including formerly incarcerated people, ultimately resulting in decreased recidivism rates.

The project leverages expertise and shared vision of each partner organization. The hub will launch as a multi-service facility housing integrated workforce development and training programs that support low-income people of color. Restore Oakland will feature restorative justice programs, which focus on rehabilitation of people in the criminal justice system through community-based reconciliation. The hub will also include child care programs, tenant housing services, and a cooperative food-enterprise incubator for entrepreneurs seeking to start pop up restaurants, catering businesses, and other food-related enterprises. The “COLORS” restaurant, operated by ROC United, will provide workers with on-the-job training, focusing on developing skills for employment in high end dining positions.

“Through Restore Oakland we are showcasing a new vision for safe communities,” said Zachary Norris, EBC’s executive director. “This community hub will demonstrate how jobs, restorative approaches, and community engagement are the real pathway to safe and thriving neighborhoods.”

EBC and ROC United worked with Designing Justice Designing Spaces, a design firm specializing in restorative justice spaces, to develop a space that is rooted in community ownership and brings together each organization’s unique assets. In 2015, NCCLF’s Consulting team began working with EBC and ROC United to outline potential space financing, roles and responsibilities for each organization, conducting a business plan review, financial modeling, real estate advisory services, and New Markets Tax Credits consulting services.

In 2016, NCCLF provided Restore Oakland with a $2.5 million acquisition loan to purchase a 13,000 sq. ft. facility on International Boulevard in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. In addition to this, NCCLF provided a $50,000 grant and $50,000 forgivable loan from our Greater Oakland Fund to finance predevelopment costs associated with renovating the space.

“Restore Oakland brings a vision we are thrilled to support,” said Mary A. Rogier, NCCLF’s president. “This project will provide people with the access to the economic mobility and support they need to succeed.”

This project is a part of the PRO Oakland collaboration.  Learn more at: www.ncclf.org/prooakland.