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'This Is Related To Elections' - Homeless Advocates Question Oakland's Timing On Encampment Crackdown

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Cities across the Bay Area have taken or plan to take action to clean up homeless encampments. But homeless advocates say the timing of all of this is a bit peculiar.

Just Monday, workers started cleaning up an encampment in Berkeley. Pleasant Hill took similar action Wednesday. And in Oakland, the City Council voted unanimously to limit where the unhoused can set up their tents, which is receiving heavy criticism from advocates.

Needa Bee goes from one encampment to another, delivering food and supplies to the unhoused. Wednesday night, she was also delivering bad news. Bee says, "It tells you where you cannot exist. It doesn't tell you where you can exist."

Bee is referring to a policy the Oakland City Council voted on to keep the unhoused from setting up tents in parks or near homes, businesses, schools and some places of worship.

Bay Area Homeless Encampment
A homeless encampment in the Bay Area. (CBS)

"It creates a greater burden for the unhoused. This is not anything close to actually helping to support nor is it towards permanent housing. It's a shuffling," Bee went on to say.

The Council hopes the City can provide a temporary alternative on land in all seven districts in Oakland.

Former City Administrator Margaretta Lin is disappointed that Oakland hasn't come up with a better, long term solution. Lin, who is now the Executive Director of a non-profit called Just Cities, told KPIX 5, "What this does, is play whack-a-mole."

Lin said it is no coincidence that the cities and elected politicians in the Bay Area are taking action on the homeless issue now. "This is related to elections. We have a number of council members facing re-election," she said.

Oakland said it has seen a 63% increase in the homeless population since 2017 and the policy was created to help the unhoused, housed and businesses.

During the virtual City Council meeting, protestors outside of Councilman Dan Kalb's home could be heard as this issue came up for a vote.

Councilman Dan Kalb says, "The most important thing is long term housing. We all know the most important thing is a home."

City officials said workers will start to remove the encampments that are in the restricted areas in January of 2021.

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