The latest phased closure of the sprawling Oakland Wood Street homeless encampment began this morning. City of Oakland crews began operations to close the portion on city-owned property adjacent to Raimondi Park. Homeless advocates and residents of the encampment have dubbed the area “The Wood Street Commons.”
Caltrans previously cleared the portion of the encampment on their property following a lengthy legal process.
Several city agencies are involved in the encampment closure operation including the City of Oakland Encampment Management Team, the Human Services Department, Oakland Public Works, the Vehicle Enforcement Unit, Animal Services and Environmental Services.
Crews removed tons of debris, illegally-dumped material and towed several inoperable vehicles from the site.
“Every Oakland resident has a right to housing, safety, and dignity,” said LaTonda Simmons, assistant city administrator and acting homelessness administrator. “That’s why our teams are working so hard to transition residents off the street and into shelter programs that enable them to eventually secure permanent housing. We were able to acquire state funding to build a new cabin shelter program, taking into account the needs and desires of the Wood Street community. And we are eager to finally enable construction to begin toward a permanent affordable housing development on the Wood Street parcel for up to 500 Oakland residents.”
Only four of the estimated sixty encampment residents have thus far agreed to relocate to a new cabin shelter program. Many of the residents have deemed the cabins inadequate as they are only temporary. Some have likened them to living in a “prison.”
Encampment residents that have rejected the cabins have often merged with other local encampments perpetuating a cat and mouse game between them and local governments.
Meanwhile, city-managed outreach teams are continuing to distribute information and engage with residents to offer a range of housing and shelter options, employment support and other services and programs.
Oakland expects to have more information from residents about their shelter decisions as the encampment operation proceeds. Officials anticipate being able to provide shelter for everyone at the encampment who wants it.
Oakland is offering spaces at the new Wood Street cabin program, funded by an $8.3 million grant from the state, as well as a Safe RV parking site on 66th Avenue.
The Wood Street cabin program can house approximately 100 people, with priority given to unsheltered residents living in the Wood Street area. The program consists of cabins for individuals, double cabins for couples and accessible cabins for people with disabilities.
So far, the cabin program design team has been able to accommodate many of the needs and requests of Wood Street encampment residents, who specifically requested plumbed bathrooms, a community space, the ability to cook food and workforce opportunities. The cabin program also includes shower and laundry facilities, limited secured storage for personal belongings, security, parking and two meals per day. Each cabin includes a secure, locked door and windows, a wall-mounted heater, an overhead light and electrical outlets.
Program participants have 24/7 access to the site and are welcome to bring up to two pets. The program includes housing navigation, job placement support, case management, counseling and other services.
A 170-unit permanent affordable housing project slated for the city-owned Wood Street parcel cannot begin until the site is cleaned up, closed and secured.
City officials expect the clean-up process to take two weeks to complete.
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