West Oakland neighborhood says city has abandoned them

Monday, April 23, 2018
Neighbors grow weary after latest fire at Oakland homeless encampment
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Oakland fire crews battled a 1-alarm fire at a homeless encampment at 105th Ave. near Interstate 880 this morning, according to fire dispatch.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- There was a big fire overnight in an Oakland homeless encampment. It's the most recent of several like it in recent months. One of those fires happened in West Oakland last month.

"It's been chaos, we've been abandoned by the City of Oakland," said West Oakland business owner Bill Eason. He says he's seen it all in his 18 years on Harlan Street.

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Just around the corner from Eason's Harlan Street auto repair business is one of Oakland's many homeless encampments, on Peralta near the Emeryville border, one Eason and his neighbors say has made living and working here.almost unbearable.

"I've seen hookers, I've seen drug deals, I've seen needles all over the place," said Eason. "Drug dealers will drive up, and all their customers will just run. They'll double park in the middle of the street. The customers will run up and then run back into their tents."

Last month, Eason ran over with a fire extinguisher and tried to put out flames that roared through some of the tents. He's even offered the residents small jobs and helped them in other ways.

But besides servicing the porta-potty and weekly garbage cleanups, Eason says the city has done little. That is despite dozens of emails and phone calls from him and others in the neighborhood.

"Not once did I get a call back. I've learned to give up," said Eason.

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Many of Eason's calls went to Joe Devries, Oakland's Asst. City Administrator in charge of homeless outreach. "The name doesn't ring a bell," said DeVries when asked about Eason's many calls.

"I can say we get dozens and dozens of calls about encampments every day because this is a crisis like it is for every city on the West Coast," said DeVries.

"The city does have several initiatives in the works, like the Tuff-Sheds just west of downtown, which is housing dozens of people.

The problem, according to the last census in 2017: There are about 2000 people currently living on the streets of Oakland.

Asked what he thinks the city can do, Eason said he wasn't sure, but something is better than nothing, given what's going on right outside his front door.

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