Homeless Camp Near East Oakland School Sparks Backlash

A homeless camp in East Oakland that sits behind a school has sparked backlash from the community and a city leader who want it moved, mainly for the safety of the students.

Councilman Noel Gallo says the homeless camp is more than just an eyesore; it’s a liability for the city of Oakland. He said Monday if the city refuses to move the camp away from its current site behind a middle school, the city is breaking state law.

Lucas Kelleher, principal of Oakland Charter Academy, agreed and also is fighting to get the camp moved.

"I just want to make sure that our kids are safe and that their parents feel comfortable letting their kids walk to school," Kelleher said.

Kelleher is in charge of 250 students at Oakland Charter Academy and finds it difficult to explain to middle-schoolers the situation unfolding on the sidewalk across the street.

"Kids have seen fights break out, kids have seen a lot of bizarre events during recess and during gym classes," he said.

In the past two years, what started out as two tents on Bond Street has ballooned into a full homeless community. Latoya Jackson said she moved in 6 months ago.

"I don’t do drugs, I don’t prostitute, I don’t see that around here at all," Jackson said. "The landlord put the rent up a thousand more dollars, and I couldn’t afford that."

Kelleher sympathizes with people like Jackson but said the city needs to put students first.

"We have a huge traffic problem in the morning because parents are so concerned about Bond Street that they physically drop off their kids," the principal said.

There are also complaints from the other side: Homeowners whose backyards butt up against the tents. One resident, a mother of two who didn't wat to be identified, said homeless people peek into her windows and have entered her backyard.

"I can’t have dinner parties anymore, I can’t have barbecues anymore," the woman said. "They’ve gone up to our children – in our backyard – and they’ve asked for money."

She says she’s been told that the city will soon set up Porta-potties on Bond Street. She says it’s the wrong move, because it will be an open invitation for more homeless people to come and pitch their tents.

"They’re only catering to them. They’re not listening to the law-abiding citizens who are paying taxes on time," she said.

A spokesperson for the mayor says the city is aware of the homeless camp and plans to clean up and clear the camp Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean the city will shut the camp down.

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