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Cleanup Begins For Massive Homeless Encampment Along Oakland's High Street

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – On Monday morning, Oakland crews moved in to begin cleaning up a huge homeless encampment near the Home Depot on High Street.

Alameda Avenue near the entrance to the store has been a magnet for homeless RV dwellers for years, and area businesses have complained bitterly about them. Every time the city cleans them out, they return within months and the trash generated on the streets and sidewalks is breathtaking.

This time, crews closed the street for what was being called a "deep cleaning."

Oakland High Street Encampment
RVs parked near High Street in East Oakland. (CBS)

"And the deep cleaning is just to push the reset button," said LaNita Hogue, with Oakland Homeless Encampment Services.  "We're not evicting anybody. We're just helping them get rid of some of the overflow."

According to the city, only a few RVs at the end of the street were being removed to allow PG&E access to some electrical equipment. But some residents said the original order was for everyone to pack up and leave.

"They were telling everybody that," said a resident named Kim. "And a couple people decided to call the news channels and see if we can get some help. Looks like somebody helped. We're now able to stay as long as we help them clean."

The RV dwellers dragged junk and debris onto the street, where it was picked up by a giant loader and dumped into trucks.

Another resident told KPIX 5 he was happy to see it happen.

"Yes, of course, of course," he said.  "Because, you know, we're all grown.  We're not little kids and we've got to be responsible, you know what I mean?  We've got to take care of our surroundings."

But it might not be their surroundings for long.  A city worker told us the RVs must leave temporarily to allow for full cleaning but would be permitted to return.

City Councilmember Noel Gallo said that's not the plan at all.

"You know, based on the businesses that are here and with my...we're not going to allow them back," Gallo said. "The law is very clear--'no parking at any time.' So, what we want to do is what we've done in other locations like this here, we create those big cement barriers."

Gallo said a 27-acre parcel, including an old factory behind Home Depot, has been purchased to become a major industrial development. He says the city has promised the landowner that the encampment would be cleared out once and for all.

So, after the garbage is removed, the RV campers may be the next to go.

The city says the residents have been offered housing and Gallo said they are looking for a place to relocate the RVs, but no site has been identified yet.

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