Oakland homeless encampment serving women in danger of closing

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Time is running out for an unlawful homeless encampment in the East Bay that primarily serves women. A federal judge is supposed to rule Tuesday whether to let them stay or allow the city of Oakland to evict them. The encampment is on Edes and Elmhurt Avenues in East Oakland.

Organizers of the fenced-off encampment say the space is a sanctuary for women who would otherwise be living on the streets.

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"Creating a space like this for women is so crucial for us to get back on our feet," said Village co-founder and homeless advocate Needa Bee.

Bee herself is homeless and has lived inside a camper with her daughters for a month. She says the space is a clean and sober alternative for women like her.

"We have a very unique set of circumstances when we're homeless, particularly with predators," said Bee. "There's not a single woman I've met in this work that I've done around homelessness that I haven't met a woman who hasn't' been raped."

Inside the encampment, there's a community garden and a to-do list to keep things clean.

"We're trying to show a new innovative way for the community to come together and build together," said Aiyahana Johnson, one of the homeless women currently staying in the space.

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Thirteen women and their families live in the city-owned land that was once sat vacant. The gate keeps out people who shouldn't be there but the city argues those inside are trespassing.

Some residents agree.

"I've been living here 10 years and it's not fair. How are they just going to move in and just take over," asked Clifford Parker. He lives in an apartment adjacent to the encampment and thinks it makes the neighborhood look bad.

Organizers say they've recently allowed some men to keep them safe but mainly serve females.

There are also safety concerns with a school nearby.

The women say not all of them qualify for shelters. For example, some have pets or jobs that make it difficult to follow shelter curfews.

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A judge is stepping in to settle the dispute but if things don't go their way, it will be a matter of time before the haven is gone.

"It's going to mean that we're back on the streets and then dealing with predators," said Bee.

Take a look at more stories and videos about homelessness here.
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