Audit finds Oakland 'not adequately prepared' to handle homeless encampment crisis

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- An audit of Oakland's response to the rise in homeless encampments found the city was "not adequately prepared to shoulder such a massive project."

"The city did not have a strategy," Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby told ABC7 News. "They were overwhelmed by that crisis."

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The audit sought to answer several questions, including how much the city had been spending to manage encampments and how the encampments impacted local businesses, city staff and the unsheltered residents themselves.

In terms of expenditures, the city spent $12.6 million over the past two years, dealing with some 140 encampments around the city.

According to the report, "Most of these costs were unbudgeted and resulted in the city forgoing other services to redirect staff and resources to encampment activities."

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Additionally, the city had to pay out multiple worker compensation claims due to staff who had reported traumatic and dangerous working conditions while in the encampments.

"The city workers were being threatened. Threatened with guns, axes, aggressive dogs, exposed to COVID, feces and needles," said Ruby.

In one case, it resulted in the city paying out a $19,000 claim.

The audit was commissioned in 2019 by Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunado Bas.

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"The audit confirms our assessment of the magnitude and complexity of this crisis," said Bas.

She said she is still waiting on part two of the audit, which will examine the millions of dollars that the city has spent on homeless service contracts, shelters, and affordable/transitional housing construction for data on how effective those programs have been.

Though, her general takeaway was one of frustration due to a lack of action and urgency.

"The city is not yet doing what it needs to do," said Bas.
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