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By Zack Haber

On the morning of November 8, members of the Oakland Encampment Management Team, Public Works and Police Department visited an area covering approximately 1/5 of a mile from Wood Street and Grand Avenue to Wood Street. and 26th Street with the stated objective of clearing the location of the homeless. But after the demining attempt, homeless people remained in the area.

“The goal was to move as many people as possible,” wrote Karen Boyd, Oakland communications director, in an email. “But this could not be accomplished without the full cooperation of the community.”

“You can’t push us any further than that,” said homeless resident Jessie Parker, a 63-year-old Oaklander who came to live on Wood Street after being shot in the leg. The injury prevented him from performing the physical movements required for construction and electrical work he had performed in the past. On November 4, the city posted pink posters informing him that from four days onwards, they would force him to leave the neighborhood where he lived. for about nine years, but he, like dozens of others living in vehicles, tents or makeshift homes along Wood Street, has not left.

Parker’s statement refers to the fact that Wood Street is one of the westernmost streets in West Oakland. A little further west of where Parker lives is land owned by Caltrans under Viaduct 880 where even more homeless people live, as well as a 1.5 acre piece of land owned by a company called Gamechanger. LLC. To the east are businesses and residential areas.

After about two years late, Gamechanger agreed to lease its land to the city for $ 1 per year and the city opened a secure RV parking site on July 7 on the company’s land through the non-profit association. lucrative. Create opportunities for self-sufficiency.

In the Safe RV Parking site, residents who own RVs and trailers can legally live there and receive services. It is not known how long this service will last, because lease between GameChanger and the city may expire in November of next year. That same lease included plans to allow 75 RVs or trailers to park, but while walking around the site on November 10, this writer counted 29 RVs while half the site was vacant. The site is not available to many residents, like Parker, who do not have an RV or trailer.

“I never got an offer to move in,” said Parker, who lives in a truck. “This is for motorhomes only.”

The opening of the site has put other residents at risk of displacement who cannot or do not want to access it. Since Oakland City Council unanimously passed its Camp management policy in October of last year, despite protests and critical comments from the public during five hours of a meeting, city policy now states that those who live within 25 feet of these sites may be subject to customs clearance.

Although their policy now allows it, the city had not attempted to relocate or even encouraged people living near the Safe RV Parking site to leave the area until the operation on November 8. But recent communications from Justin Tombolesi, who is the Constituent Liaison for Carroll Fife, District Council Member 3, has led advocates and homeless people to believe the company is now pressuring the town to force people to leave the area. In a text message to a homeless man who lives near Wood Street, Tombolesi wrote: “Gamechanger is suing town because people are too close to the RV site.

Gamechanger denies having sued or pressured the city. When asked if the company is suing or threatening to sue the city, company attorney Pat Smith of Smith LLP, replied in an email, writing “Not at all – no thought of suing the city. The city is solely responsible for the site and the property has no implications or concerns about the way the city runs things.

In an email, Boyd wrote that “no deposit or action to terminate the lease has been served on the town,” but the town has “spoken to legal counsel representing the lot of GameChanger regarding the city’s plans to create compliance “.

In another text message to the same resident, Tombolesi also claimed that the city would allow Wood Street residents to move to a vacant portion of land next to the street and just north of the Safe RV Parking site during the operation. closed on November 8. No residents have moved in there and the residents, along with advocates who were on site that day, say no one was asked to do so. Boyd said the city is offering nine spaces in the city’s community cabins and five spaces in a rapid relocation program called The Holland. A resident has accepted a spot in community cabins, a program that offers small, unheated shelters in spaces similar to sheds made by the Tuff Shed Company.

Advocates say a dozen of them showed up on November 8 to support residents. One of them, Annmarie Bustamente, said their presence “definitely helped the residents to block the eviction” and that the residents were “tired of the trip and said no” to a member of the public works department. Oakland to encourage them to move.

Although the shutdown operation was originally scheduled to run for three days between Monday, November 8 and Wednesday, November 10, no one from the town returned after the first day.

“The ability to continue on Monday had an impact on the whole operation,” Boyd wrote in an email, “and the activities for the following days have been canceled.”

Although the homeless residents did not leave Wood Street, Oakland Police Department Public Information Officer Kim Armstead said the service towed six vehicles with a long-expired registration on 6 and November 7 in the region for closure.

According to Armstead, the department has avoided towing vehicles that served as homes for people because the department, following instructions from the towns, “agreed not to tow vehicles where there is clear evidence that they are being used as homes. shelters ”. Armstead also said on November 8 that the OPD supported the town’s operation with two officers, a sergeant and six technicians from the police department who provided traffic control and the safety of town workers.

A homeless resident named Evangeline said towing her and her husband’s vehicle made it difficult for grocery shopping and visiting her mother, who had just had a heart attack. The couple cannot afford the costs to retrieve the car, so it will remain in the tow yard.

“We’re really stuck,” she said.

Although residents like Parker have avoided being relocated from Wood Street, it is not known when or if the city will return to relocate them. According to Parker, a member of the nonprofit Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency has made an effort to secure him some form of permanent housing and he hopes the person will be successful.

“I’m a little older now so my biggest interest is getting back to housing,” Parker said. “If I find myself in accommodation, I’m sure I won’t go back. I can no longer take these harsh elements.


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