A massive homeless camp which has been growing for years outside a Home Depot in Oakland, CA is being cleared out by the city, though current residents won’t have to leave quite yet. The San Francisco Chronicle reports city crews have already pulled 250 tons of garbage from the site but there’s a lot more left to do:
Oakland city crews have pulled 75 truckloads — about 250 tons — of debris out of the sprawling homeless encampment that surrounds the Fruitvale Home Depot in the past two weeks.
“And we still have 50 more tons to go,” said Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, whose district includes the Home Depot camp.
By comparison, San Francisco Public Works reports that even its biggest cleanups rarely top 10 tons.
One of the major concerns with that much garbage, including lots of RVs and abandoned vehicles, is the risk of fire. The Chronicle reports there have been 158 fires connected to homeless camps in Oakland this year. And this site was a disaster waiting to happen:
Fire marshals did a walk-through of the site and found “extremely hazardous fire conditions” amid the broken-down cars, RVs, tents and make-do cabins.
“The risk to human life at the site due to fire danger is unacceptable,” Fire Marshal Orlando Arriola said.
“We just had a fire Sunday,” Gallo said. “This guy set fire to his RV right in the middle of one of the lots” adjacent to the Home Depot.
For the time being, the homeless have moved from the current site to a privately owned area nearby. But once the site is cleared they are expected to return. The owner of the private lot wants to see it turned into a Carl’s Jr. restaurant, but that obviously can’t happen under the current conditions.
As you’ll see in the report below (which is from June), Home Depot complained about an uptick in theft connected to the camp and also about safety concerns for employees and delivery drivers. Of course the company can’t do anything about the homeless living there. That’s the city’s problem. Despite that, the city actually cited Home Depot for the garbage that accumulated in the area.
Two other things you’ll notice in this report. First, one of the homeless women living in the camp says most of her neighbors are using meth every night. You can bet that because they want to keep using meth, they won’t accept offers of alternative shelter. Second, the city’s inability to do anything about the camp is connected to the same Boise lawsuit which resulted in a decision saying the homeless can’t be moved off the street unless they are offered an alternative place to sleep. So Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf (remember her) would need as many free beds as there are people to close this camp. Bottom line: The city can’t move people and many of the people don’t want to move. So you get this mess.