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East Oakland Homeless Encampment To Get Reprieve

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- The mayor of Oakland will give residents of a massive homeless camp in East Oakland a two-week reprieve after outcry from homeless advocates over plans to demolish the encampment this week.

Mayor Libby Schaaf said the structures built beneath BART tracks along  San Leandro Boulevard from 81st Avenue to 85th Avenue are fire hazards. There have been a string of fires at the camp over the summer.

In early August, the city posted notices warning that the camp would be dismantled on Wednesday, August 28. Resident were warned to move or risk having their belongings discarded.

Homeless advocates fought back, urging the city to give residents more time. Candice Elder, founder of the East Oakland Collective, said the camp is home to vulnerable people, including senior citizens and at least one family.

"There is a mother with a one-month-old baby, so we are very, very concerned about her," said Elder.

Schaaf said she is aware of the mother living at the camp.

"That particular family will get shelter," she said. "We are working very hard on expanding our capacity to specifically shelter families."

But it's unclear what will happen to the other people who live at the encampment. 47-year-old Jeff Burris told KPIX 5 he has lived at the camp for six months. He fixes bicycles and sells them cheaply.

"Thought I had somewhere where I could stay for a little while and maybe get on my feet," he said. "That's all we're trying to do is get back on our feet."

Elder said the two-week extension will allow homeless advocates to raise funds to buy the people who live at the encampment fire-retardant tents to eliminate the fire hazard. But she said there is a larger problem: the city's tendency to displace the homeless before finding permanent housing solutions.

"The city is under so much pressure that sometimes they act inhumanely," said Elder.

Schaaf disagrees.

"I believe the city of Oakland is doing homelessness resolutions in the most compassionate way possible," she said.

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