Oakland Cleans Up Longstanding Homeless Camp, Plans To Close Camp By Year's End

Bob Butler
October 22, 2019 - 2:30 pm
Oakland workers clean up homeless camp near Fruitvale Home Depot

Bob Butler / KCBS Radio

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OAKLAND, CA (KCBS Radio) – Oakland city workers are cleaning up debris and garbage that has been building up for years in a homeless camp in the city’s Fruitvale neighborhood.

Public works crews arrived Tuesday morning with garbage trucks, front loaders, shovels and brooms and filled two dump trucks with trash within the first hour.

Oakland workers clean up homeless camp near Fruitvale Home Depot
Bob Butler / KCBS Radio

The camp is located near a Home Depot store and I-880 freeway and has been there for years, but city officials say as debris has built up it has become increasingly dangerous.

“We had a fire on Sunday, at East 12th St. on the median strip; six of these structures burned,” says assistant city manager Joe DeVries. “A week earlier we had one; out at this site on East 8th St. we had one of these wooden structures and two RVs burned.”

Crews will work for four days this week and next week to clean up the site.

“The first goal is to create a fire lane so that our service vehicles and our emergency vehicles can get in to the back of the site,” says DeVries. “Number two is to remove all of the additional fire load – the piles of wood, the propane tank, the abandoned vehicles that no one’s using… get all that out of there to clean it up to create a healthier safer site.”

But residents say it is not just trash that is being cleared out. The city plans to close the camp by the end of the year.

“It’s really sad for a lot of these people because if they’re to be moved where are they going to go?” says Maria Fuentes who lives in the camp. She says there has been a lot of confusion over what is being removed and when.

Residents thought that wooden structures would be allowed to stay but at least one has already been torn down and more are likely to go.

Fuentes says one family just recently rebuilt on the lot, and now they will have to start all over. “They just went through a tragic fire over here before they built this house. The mom and family put some money together so they could buy the material to build this house. Now they gotta knock it down… a lot of this wasn’t explained to people.”

But DeVries says the city has little choice but to close down what has become a major hazard. “The structures have to come down. They’re just not safe… we don’t want them to live in a death trap”

Reported by Bob Butler. Written by Jessica Yi.