Oakland Home Depot fed up with homeless camp

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's no way to run a business-- at least that's what Home Depot is telling the City of Oakland.

The company is now fed up with the expansive homeless encampment that's encircled its Oakland store.

"The biggest issues they have in these encampments are aggressive individuals in these camps and theft," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Home Depot officials met this week with Schaaf to express concerns and insist the city do something--immediately.

"Let me just be clear," said Schaaf. "No one deserves the unpleasant impacts of large-scale encampments-- the trash, the blight, the human waste. We need to clean these impacts up while being compassionate."

Margaret Smith, an Atlanta-based spokesperson for Home Depot told ABC7 News in a statement, "We appreciate the mayor taking time to meet with us and to hear our concerns. We'll continue to work with the city to find solutions as quickly as possible."

The problems around Home Depot are many and highly visible and they've grown in recent months. Most of the encampment is on city property adjacent to the store's front parking lot. The metal fencing has been cut in various places. Shopping carts and merchandise, apparently stolen, can be seen throughout the camp along with mounds of garbage, tents and various structures, abandoned cars and dozens of RV's both in the camp and out on the street.

"People are stealing their equipment, their materials, assaulting their customers," said Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo.

Gallo says Home Depot and the mayor won't say it, but he worries the national chain may pull out of Oakland.

"The reality is I don't want to lose 200 to 300 jobs that are here at Home Depot," said Gallo. "Those are entry-level jobs and if I lose Home Depot I'm going to have more people out on the street."

Gallo shared with ABC7 NEWS an email from a Home Depot just two days ago describing how two employees were confronted while surveying the area behind the store along 37th Ave.

"...an individual who is living in the RV brought out his dog and brandished a pistol at them."

No one was hurt, but the Home Depot executive who sent it to city officials wrote its just the latest example of how bad conditions have become at the Alameda Avenue location.

Home Depot pays the overtime for two Oakland Police officers to patrol full-time and there are portable security cameras in the parking lot, but still, some shoppers are leary.

"You never know when people are going to approach you and you don't know their intentions," said Maria Alarcon, as she walked to her car in the parking lot. "They may be well-intended but you really don't know because they are very aggressive sometimes."

Schaaf says the city will roll out a series of solutions in the coming weeks, including fencing off 37th Avenue behind the store.

"The first step will be shutting off that dead-end street and potentially moving some of the RV dwellers into a managed parking site in that area as well as siting a new cabin community," explained Schaaf.

Schaaf said some of the homeless at the current site could also be offered beds in the city's emergency shelters.

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