The Oakland City Council was debating Tuesday where homeless people can and cannot set up tents.
The city says the pandemic has worsened its homeless crisis and it needs to create a framework to address safety and sanitation issues at homeless camps, but homeless advocates say the policy will only shuffle homeless families from one block to the next and cut them off from essential services.
The city said the homeless population has jumped by 63%. In a report, the city’s director of interdepartmental operations admits there’s too many homeless camps to handle each one on its own.
"I’m having people released from prisons and they’re winding up on our streets, no place to live, no job," Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo said.
The city council is expected to vote on an encampment management policy that will identify certain parts of the city as high sensitivity and low sensitivity areas. High sensitivity areas include playgrounds, parks, schools, residences or businesses.
City council members can allow camps to form in high sensitivity areas, but only if they are managed by advocacy or faith-based organizations.
Bruce Vuong runs an auto body shop in Oakland as well as other businesses near the 12th Street homeless encampment. He said he pays roughly $350,000 in property taxes each year to the city.
"It's just ridiculous," he said. "We need to do something. Give us some justice. We pay the tax. We deserve the service."
Homeless advocates spoke up during Tuesday's city council meeting, saying the policy will ban thousands of homeless people from communities where they still have roots.
"They need to get a real good sense of what it is to be out here and maybe they can go to the drawing board," Aaron Edmond of Oakland said.
Edmond said it was the combination of losing his security guard job and his landlord increasing the rent that forced him to move into this RV.
"I can’t pay $1,000 for a studio and still be able to survive," he said.