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Work, outreach to clear Oakland Wood St. homeless encampment going slowly

Work, outreach to clear Oakland Wood St. homeless encampment going slowly
Work, outreach to clear Oakland Wood St. homeless encampment going slowly 03:12

OAKLAND -- It has now been one week since a team of agencies launched the removal of the largest homeless camp in Oakland. Since then, KPIX 5 has followed the last-minute rush to get out of Wood Street, the massive effort by Caltrans to tackle all the trash and abandoned cars beneath 880, and one former camp resident who is now in transitional housing. 

But a job this big is going to take time, and much of the encampment is still there, largely untouched, with outreach workers going camper-to-camper, trying to help residents before their time runs out.

"Because you know they're clearing out here next week," explained Lucy Kasdin to a couple living in a trailer beneath Interstate 880.

Kasdin is the director of Alameda County's Healthcare for the Homeless program. In the sprawling remainder of the Wood Street encampment, Kasdin and her team are making sure they've turned every corner, trying to make contact with every single person still living here. Some need medical attention, some have no idea where to go, and others just need a little more help getting to that next stop.

"Sir, you actually already have a spot," Kasdin told one resident. "I think they may have told you, you already have a spot at home base."

"I think it's just so important to kind of hold that humanity and understand and have compassion," she said of the work.

On the north end, the first phase, outreach continues with the swarm of Caltrans workers drawing within feet of those who are still here. For the holdouts in this area, things really are closing in.

"Some people are angry, some are a little more depressed," said encampment resident Jared Defigh. "A lot are mostly just busy either trying to figure out what to do with the stuff they do have and find another place to stay for now."

"I've been here 30 years," said Kelly Thompson as he gathered auto parts. "I'm not moving too far. I am going to, I've almost got my trailer fixed."

Kasdin says about 50 people have now accepted some offer of shelter, and the crush of the workers and heavy equipment has some who initially declined rethinking their decision to stay.

"But I think all of the other complexities of homelessness, that certain if you can visually see you out here today, it's just going to get magnified as people are pushed down here," Kasdin said of what's ahead.

So the outreach continues as the Caltrans crews move south, every car and camper its own unique challenge.

"So we will find out, but we will be out here almost every day until they clear out," Kasdin told another group of campers. "To make sure that you're aware of everything, and get you all somewhere safe from here."

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