Oakland workers clean up homeless encampment, no one moved out

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Oakland city workers spent Thursday morning cleaning up a homeless encampment at Northgate Avenue and 27th street in Oakland.

The city gave people staying at the encampment a 3 day heads up requesting they separate out anything they wanted to keep from the garbage. No one was moved.

Alexis Johnson says she has 7 tents at the encampment. When she found herself on the street she discovered her mother was staying at the encampment too.

"It broke my heart," said Johnson.

"When I first saw her it was like oh there's my baby," said her mother. They're glad city workers stopped by today to pick up debris.

"Other people come and just throw their garbage out there," said Johnson's mother. Residents who live near the encampment say the debris pick-up is not enough.

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"You walk around the corner here and it smells like death," said Quinton Pierce.

"My kids can't even play in our backyard anymore because all we see is needles," said Dawnelle Green.

"It's a deplorable situation in the city I can't see how the city lets this happen," said Jerry Brown.

City officials say the fundamental solution to homelessness is housing. "We are in a regional housing affordability crisis," said Communications Director for the city Karen Boyd.

The city is also experimenting with sanctioned camps. "The homeless encampments are generating a lot of accumulated debris that creates a sanitation issue for the people who are living in the encampments," Boyd continued.

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Boyd says while city officials understand people want to help, dropping off furniture or large quantities of food that could spoil does not improve the situation.

"No matter how well-intentioned, dropping off perishable food at homeless encampments can become a health and safety issue for the campers, who lack adequate refrigeration, cooking facilities, and sanitation options. When food spoils, it attracts rodents and insects, which creates additional health and sanitation problems for the unsheltered residents," wrote Boyd in an email to ABC7 News.

She instead suggested the following options:

- Donate non-perishable food which doesn't require cooking
- Donate to community-based organizations that serve the homeless, such as St. Vincent de Paul or your local food bank
- Contact homeless outreach teams such as Operation Dignity who are familiar with the specific needs of various encampments
- Work with faith-based groups that have organized food ministries

"With respect to furniture and appliances, it is illegal to drop off these items on any city streets, be it at an encampment or otherwise," Boyd also wrote.
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