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State to help Oakland clean out homeless encampments

With more than 5,000 unhoused individuals living on the streets of Oakland, and a lack of local resources, officials say they need the state’s help to solve the city’s growing encampment crisis.

“The city of Oakland doesn’t have the number of resources to address just the magnitude of the crisis of homelessness, illegal dumping, blight, or public safety as you have seen,” said Councilmember Treva Reid.

Now, Caltrans is stepping in to provide outreach, shelter options and clear encampments for the next two years. First on the list — the Hagenberger Corridor on Leet Drive near the airport. 

Reid says encampments in that area pose significant safety risks, including fires, compromising storm water systems, and public safety issues.

“We have an estuary water way that’s impacted, we have businesses that are impacted, it’s the first site that you see coming from the airport that shows just the magnitude of a number of issues of us needed to really take care of our community,” she said.

Caltrans is targeting areas along the highway and is in discussions to turn one of their properties into a city-run shelter.

In a statement Monday the agency said, “Our objective is to prevent the return of homeless individuals to these areas and to ensure they receive the necessary continuum of care.” 

Councilmember Reid credits the city administrator and Governor Newsom for taking action.

“From the moment he met with me on Feb 16 and recognized the impact of this water way the public threat of the encampments coming into the estuary with what we know could flow from those encampments and what there is record of flowing,” she said. “He put a serious sense of urgency with the city.”

But not everyone is cheering the move.

Homeless advocates from Love and Justice in the Streets released a statement saying, “Encampment sweeps are not the answer. These state resources could be better used in funding real long term solutions. Instead of investing more resources into policing and pushing unhoused people from one sidewalk to another, we encourage the City of Oakland to collaborate with the state on proven solutions including utilizing empty hotels in Oakland to immediately provide housing to our communities. The solution to encampments is permanent housing not sweeps.”

Supporters of the plan note Newsom recently announced 140 new Homekey housing units in east Oakland.  

Caltrans said that as part of the partnership, it will follow the city’s encampment policy, including prioritizing encampments that pose significant safety risks, and offering shelter assistance. 

“Our hope is that are living in these areas would be receptive of the assistance, of the supportive services, of the placement that can be provided,” said Reid. “And that we can come together with our county partner to increase the number of shelter and housing options available to them.”

Read the full statement from the city of Oakland bellow:

“The last deep cleaning of the Leet Drive encampment occurred in late February. This is considered a sensitive area as storm drains feed directly into San Leandro Creek. Alameda County Flood Control, the Port of Oakland and the City of Oakland are all impacted by illicit discharge occurring at this location. 

The MOU with Caltrans – which is still being negotiated – is a new partnership developed with the ability to address areas with issues that fall under multiple jurisdictions. While Leet Drive may appear to be a City of Oakland issue, it overlaps into other agencies and jurisdictions. There are cases where overlapping jurisdictions could work together to be more efficient. Additional assistance with Caltrans could range from outreach, to providing shelter options, to a full closure of the site, consistent with Caltrans activity throughout the state.

The City would use its encampment policy during any operation governed by the City’s Encampment Management Plan. The Resolution requires that any work performed by Caltrans on City property must be consistent with the City’s encampment.”

Source: NBC Bay Area

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