By David Aaro
Published January 28, 2020
California will eliminate a large homeless site outside an Oakland Home Depot next month — roughly six months after the city announced it would shut down the encampment, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Residents – estimated to number between 40 and 100 – live in makeshift homes, vehicles and tents at the camp, which appeared three years ago and was toured by former presidential candidate Julian Castro back in September, the outlet said. People living there reportedly come and go, with some residents serving as unofficial leaders of the site.
City officials told the outlet those homeless will be offered shelter beds or space at a community cabin site, estimated to be completed in March. The people living in RV's will reportedly be moved to a "safe RV parking" site at a city-owned lot starting Monday.
“The conditions [at the encampment] are really not healthy or safe for anybody,” Lara Tannenbaum, manager of the city's community housing services told the Chronicle, adding that the RV site “seemed like a good fit for a good number of those folks.”
The site received attention from the city in 2019, after Home Depot said it impacted employee safety and store security. The company is reportedly paying off-duty officers $100 an hour to patrol the area, according to the outlet. Councilman Noel Gallo previously said the Home Depot could close if the city failed to clear the tents and RVs from the encampment. The home improvement retailer denied it would close, the Chronicle said.
“We’ve been trying to work with Home Depot for a number of months, make sure their property is safe,” Gallo said a committee meeting in June, according to the Chronicle. “This is a real serious issue, and I think you already have enough businesses that have left Oakland.”
Markaya Spikes, 39, lived at the encampment for three years, her home donated by students of Oakland School for the Arts.
“There are really no options available for anybody like me in my situation, period,” Spikes said, according to the outlet. “It’s not just that I have a tiny home. I have dogs and I have a kid.”
Candice Elder, director of East Oakland Collective, an organization that addresses racial and economic equality, says the RV would work for some and not work for others, adding that "everyone is very worried and stressed."
“This closure has been looming for a long time, but now they finally set the date and, of course, no one is ever fully prepared for this no matter how much time you give someone," she told the Chronicle.