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Oakland Lake Merritt Homeless Encampment Cleanup Continues

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- For some neighbors living around Oakland's Lake Merritt, Friday's ongoing homeless encampment cleanup is something that should have happened a long time ago.

For others, it's an outrage.

Either way, Friday was the day for one of the largest camps to come down.

FEB 13: Homeless Residents Run Bike Business Behind Children's Fairyland
FEB 14: City Of Oakland Clears Homeless From Lake Merritt

"Today the city is here doing another cruel and inhumane eviction of unsheltered people who have literally nowhere to go," said Talya Husbands-Hankin of the Homeless Advocacy Working Group. Crews from the City of Oakland were busy removing tents, clothes, propane tanks and more bicycles than anyone cared to count.

One camp, behind Children's Fairyland, has been here for a while and a lot of neighbors say its removal is long overdue.

"All my neighbors that deal with this and are confronted with this, they couldn't be happier," said one neighbor named Lorandolph. He said he understands why most neighbors don't want to speak publicly but says many of the people he knows have run into problems with campers. He has had to call police on two occasions after being threatened in the park and thinks most of his neighbors are happy to see the larger encampments removed.

"We've gotten a lot of 'thank yous,'" said Joe DeVries with the City of Oakland. "People are compassionate but they want to see some standards."

The city recently won a court battle over exactly this kind of encampment removal. The five people staying in these tents were given six days' notice, they were allowed to set aside belongs they wanted to keep and they were also offered some kind of shelter by the city.

"The judge in Oakland that ruled in our case in December reaffirmed that our policies and procedures were constitutional," DeVries explained. "And they're the same procedures we've been working on for a couple of years."

The case in Oakland was just one legal fight over how the homeless can legally be relocated. There is also a court case in Idaho.

"There was a case called Martin vs. Boise which found cities could not move people without offering adequate shelter," said Husbands-Hankin. "What we believe is that the shelter that the city of Oakland is offering is not adequate."

Again, the city disagrees. "It didn't say that cities couldn't move encampments," DeVries said of the Idaho case. "It said we couldn't just ticket people and arrest people for being homeless. City of Oakland doesn't do that."

Oakland says the encampment removal procedures are legal and so the camp removals will continue. That goes for this particular camp as well because a crew of a half dozen, with two garbage trucks, could not finish the job on Friday. Crews are expected to return Tuesday morning.

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