Oakland calls Tuff Sheds a success; first village removed as lease ends

Oakland's first 'Tuff Shed' camp is gone. The city's year-long lease with a private developer at 6th and Brush streets in West Oakland ended this month and the city took away the 20 sheds that could  temporarily house 40 homeless people at a time.

"We always planned on having a short lease. We moved the left over cabins to storage and they will be used when a new site opens soon," said Joe Devries, Oakland's homeless coordinator

The city says the success rate here was extraordinary.

Of the 74 homeless people who stayed here, 76 percent are now living in either permanent or transitional housing. They're off the street including those who had lived here when the camp closed three weeks ago

"The net impact we had on unsheltered residents on our streets was positive. That is why we are continuing to expand it," said Devries.

The success rate at the three remaining Tuff Shed camps is lower at 68 percent. Two more shed camps are expected to open in the next few months.

"This isn't housing. This is emergency shelter in a non-traditional way. And it worked," said Devries.

The owner of the nearby Kinetic Art Center says that once the Tuff Sheds went in a year ago, the city cleaned up the homeless encampments surrounding them. They said the area has stayed clean.

"We don't have a rat problem anymore. And I feel better knowing so many people who were living on the streets who are now in a more protective environment," said co-owner Victoria Angello. 

But some people say once a homeless tent encampment is dismantled, a new one springs up a few blocks away.

One resident said the Tuff Sheds are too close to residential areas.

"There are a lot of homeless who are addicted to drugs, alcohol. I think it is dangerous," Joel Saldana.

But one man sleeping in a tent in West Oakland said he's willing to give a Tuff Shed a try.

"Living on the streets, destitute, in the Bay Area, it is horrible," the man said.

Oakland is planning on conducting a new homeless count Wednesday. The last count, two years ago, documented 1,900 people living on Oakland's streets.