Protesters tried to take a page from the Occupy playbook in the city of Oakland this week, but the “Housing Justice Village” they set up in a park adjacent to City Hall only lasted a few hours. Police began warning the activists shortly after they set up their tents and most of them agreed to leave. But a group of 22 holdouts refused to leave so early Monday morning police raided the camp and arrested them. By the next morning, all of the tents that had been set up were gone.
Police and city workers began to gather outside of the so-called “Housing Justice Village” erected on Frank Ogawa Plaza on Sunday evening, warning housing advocates they faced arrest if they did not remove their tents.
Activists began pitching their tents on the plaza Sunday, an action which took Oakland officials by surprise. The group swelled to some 25 tents and about 70 to 80 people, according to a press release from the city…
As the hours passed, a standoff began between protesters who refused to dismantle their makeshift encampment and Oakland police. Early Monday, police and city work crews swooped in.
Oakland has been hit hard with an increase in homeless people. The per-capital homeless rate is higher in Oakland than in San Francisco and has gone up nearly 50% in the past two years:
Oakland’s per-capita homeless rate is higher than San Francisco and Berkeley; it rose 47% between 2017 and 2019.
— Luz Peña (@LuzPenaABC7) July 24, 2019
Earlier this month I wrote about the city’s decision to finally remove one massive homeless camp located near a Home Depot. City crews removed 250 tons of trash from the site, including a number of abandoned cars, and said they still had an estimate 50 tons left to collect. That decision was largely based on concern over the fire hazard the camp represented as well as complaints from the Home Depot that it might leave the city as a result of an uptick in crime and a hazard to workers and delivery drivers. So it’s fair to say that Oakland has been making some effort to control homeless camps recently but it still has a long way to go.
One protester who was arrested Monday said, “We are protesting because there are a bunch of empty houses and a bunch of homeless people and we think that people should have homes.” A group called Moms for Housing recently took over an abandoned home in the city. The group describes itself as “a collective of homeless and marginally housed mothers […] with the ultimate goal of reclaiming housing for the community from speculators and profiteers.”
But that’s not something the city is prepared to do at this point. Here’s a local news report on the removal of ‘Housing Justice Village.’
Update: I’ve been meaning to mention this piece for a week. The NY Times reported last Tuesday that the number of homeless people in San Francisco might be double the official estimate:
For years, city governments have measured homelessness by sending out volunteers on a single night to count, as best they could, the number of homeless people they found on the streets or in shelters. By this method San Francisco this year reported 8,011 homeless people, a 17 percent increase over 2017, the last time a count was conducted.
But San Francisco has another, arguably more comprehensive, way of measuring homelessness, and the results are even more alarming.
Over the course of a full year, the city counted twice as many homeless people — 17,595 people, a 30 percent jump from the previous year.
If that’s accurate, it helps explain why Oakland is struggling with so many homeless camps.