Oakland homelessness up 25% in last 2 years; residents hold Town Hall

- Many Oakland residents say the homeless population is at a crisis level. The number of homeless in the city has shot up 25 percent in the past two years.

One stretch of International Boulevard illustrates the problem and on Friday night, city leaders were invited to a Town Hall meeting at nearby Allen Temple Baptist Church. About 200 people showed up. 

City leaders were given an earful from church members who claim the city isn't doing enough to clean up the homeless encampment on their doorstep. 

"If I had another encampment I'd probably be there," said Mike Falls. He says he's been homeless most of his adult life. His block between 84th and 85th Street is strewn with tents garbage and rotten food. 

Just next door, the emotional Town Hall was addressing the issues about the area known as the "Living Room". 

Dr. J. Alred Smith Jr. is the pastor at the church. He invited city and county leaders to talk about a plan to clean up the area in four weeks. He says it's been three years of the same conversation. 

"Is there a target date to move people out. Is there a target date to get rid of predators?" he asked. 

It was not clear what he meant by referring to predators. 

City officials laid out a plan for transitional housing in mixed use building along International Boulevard. Even safe havens for RVs and more. 

"Port-a-potties, hand-washing stations, bringing services and intensifying services," said Sarah Bedford, director of Health and Human Services for the City of Oakland. 

Officials addressed the issue of high crime, open drug deals, prostitution and drug paraphernalia littering the streets.

"It's an atrocity. I want this on camera. You can go to other parts of Oakland...Piedmont Avenue...you don't see all this. You see it all here," said Terry Williams of Alameda. 

Complaints against the homeless encampments in Oakland grew 710 percent over six years. Part of the issue is garbage. 

"If they're going to complain about this block, they'll complain about the one over there. This is just a place where the homeless migrate," said Falls. 

Noticeably absent from the conversation was Mayor Libby Schaaf. Some took issue with her absence.

A representative from the mayor's office finally made it on stage, but for some, it was already too late.

"She was here with her staff when she was trying to get elected front and center. She's not invited back until you fix that mess," said Jacquie Williams from Alameda. 

"They're just not paying attention to this group of people, this place, this area. Why? I don't know," said Williams.

 Allen Temple Baptist feeds the homeless at least three times a week and say the volunteers are often at risk. 

Finding permanent housing will be key and they don't want to see these people turned away and back out on the streets. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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