Business owners concerned with Oakland's growing homeless population

As a homeless encampment grows along Wood and 26th Streets in West Oakland, so does the frustration of business owners working across the street.

"I'm supposed to be running a business here. My employees and [I] shouldn't have to put up with this," said business owner Terry Caughell.
A business owner sent KTVU a photograph of the area taken last week where garbage could be seen everywhere.

"We could have bubonic plague. I have rats in my building. I've never had rats in my building," said business owner Ray Mazur.

The city has since cleaned up the trash, but the business people expect it will pile up again.
“Typical cycle. In another two to three weeks it will get to the point where they will have to come out and pick it up again," said Caughell.

The City of Oakland is helping support the encampment. They’ve brought in port-a-potties and barricades to keep the camps from encroaching deeper onto the street. 

The city sees it as a humane and healthier option.

"It's better that people have a place to go to the bathroom, but the fact there is a large homeless encampment by the business doesn't make it better and we understand that,” said Joe Devries, the Assistant to the Oakland City Administrator.

Among the residents of this encampment is Lee Smith. He says he's an Iraq war veteran who fell on hard times 10 years ago.
"I figured I’d have a house or something good, but the recession really pushed me further back," said Lee Smith.

Smith says he knows the garbage is a problem for the neighborhood.

"We just dump it in a pile over there. They come get it. We have to watch out for people who just dump stuff," said Smith.

The city says this area has become an illegally dumping site for outsiders, but the city has hired an additional clean-up crew, and the pickups will be more frequent.

A big part of the problem is Oakland is facing soaring rents and low income housing is harder and harder to find.
Oakland is doubling its budget for homeless services to $185 million this year.

"We know the tunnel is large. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime we have to do a better job of managing the encampment's that we have," said Devries.

But some say when it's in your face every day, it is hard to remain optimistic.