Number of homeless in Oakland projected to grow

Homeless encampments continue to pop up all over the Bay Area.  The one on Fifth at Brush Street in Oakland is just an example of it.  "Two years ago we had 14,000 unsheltered people on the street at night and that number has exploded," says Joe DeVries with the city of Oakland.  

The city is projecting that number to increase by at least another 5,600 this year. With the increase comes a risk of safety issues especially fires. "I've lost about four tents in a fire since I been doing this homeless thing," says a homeless man who goes by the name of Pops. 

He's not alone, Monday night a fire broke out at an encampment under Interstate 580 along 35th and Magnolia Streets, near the Emeryville border.  Investigators say the fire burned about a dozen tents. No injuries were reported.  

Last month another encampment fire, this time it was below the 22nd Avenue overcrossing to Interstate 880.  A cooking fire burned and destroyed five tents. None of the 40-people living there were hurt.  But a dog did die. The city is looking to conduct outreach with those living in encampments.  "People think that tents are fire retardant they're not.  Once they've been out in the elements for several months they lose that retarding coding," says DeVries. 

"It’s not the city problem. It’s our problem to deal with the fire thing. The fire hazards should be your problem.  Not smoke in your tent and not burn candles," says Pops.  The city is also looking at clearing sidewalks and picking up garbage in encampments as yet another way to keep people living there safe. 

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