Oakland Homeless Encampment Near Lake Merritt

Carrie Hodousek/ KCBS Radio

Complaints About Trash And Violence Push Oakland To Dismantle Lakeside Homeless Camps

Carrie Hodousek
February 14, 2019 - 5:31 pm

OAKLAND — Oakland city officials began removing homeless encampments around Lake Merritt on Thursday due to complaints about sanitation and crime.

While city officials expressed empathy for people living without secure housing, they also said that the transient population in dozens of tents tucked away under trees and bridges around the lake has become a major point of contention for neighbors. 

“Violent fights, screaming and shouting all night long, illegal fires, structures being built,” Joe DeVries, assistant to Oakland’s city administrator, said listing off complaints that he's heard. “Living in a park, in a tent, in this weather, throwing your garbage everywhere, having your human waste gather in the park, it’s just not an acceptable way to live.”

Outreach workers have been moving homeless individuals into community cabins or offering them a place to stay at their transitional housing facility where mental health, addiction and other services are allegedly available.

Mayor Libby Schaaf has promised to construct additional Tuff Sheds as a form of emergency housing as the city grapples with rampant homelessness. City workers recently spent days removing residents from a vast homeless camp known as "the Village" beneath BART tracks. 

“We’ve had a lot of success,” DeVries said. “Obviously not everyone will. Our programs for housing are voluntary. We can’t force anyone in, nor would we want to.”

While the eviction took place, students and teachers at Abundant Beginnings Forest Freedom School. chanted, "we believe everyone deserves a home." 

Homeless advocates complained that removing people from their tents during a particularly rough storm, like the one that showered on Thursday, is inhumane. One advocate told KCBS Radio that  some of the people without homes have mental health issues and cannot be placed in a shelter with groups of people.

Written by Brian Krans.