Oakland clearing out homeless encampment after fire despite opposition from residents

Oakland city officials said they're clearing out the area to create a site to better serve the homeless. But people who live there said they want to stay. 

Most agree the area has seen many fires, violent crimes and illegal dumping. 

The city said it now has the funding to improve the area, but there is opposition to the plan.  

Workers say since Monday, they've demolished one tiny home and three makeshift structures along Wood street near 34th streets.  It's part of a large area with various homeless encampment, where large fires regularly break out, including this week.

More structures are expected to be taken down through Thursday.

"We really are a lot of hardworking people. We struggle out here," said Mavin Carter-Griffin. 

Her makeshift home was destroyed by a bulldozer as part of Oakland's effort to evacuate and clean up the area. 

She's among 11 people who will need to find alternate housing. Notices for the homeless to vacate are posted. 

City officials said it's part of a larger plan to make this area safe, but residents don't feel safe. 

"It's scary sometimes, but it's also the only home we've known out here,"said Jessica Blackwell, who lives in the encampment.  

Despite the fires that break out, Blackwell said she wants to stay.

"I'd rather be here than a lot of other places because at least here there's some kind of family," she said. 

But city officials said encampment fires point to the need to clear this area, that this effort has been in the works for a year.

"The city of Oakland has been working hand in hand with Caltrans and I think the relationship is better now than it has been in the past and there's a collaboration to make sure everyone gets housed," said Oakland city council member Carroll Fife, who represents the area.  

Officials said Oakland received a $4.7 million grant from the state to turn the area into an intervention site to help the homeless on Wood Street, including providing emergency housing.

"This didn't pop up overnight. This has been building,"said Alan Lucchesi, owner of SoundWave Studios on Wood Street. "It's not going to be one day or even one week. It's going to take an extended process to improve this whole area."

Blackwell and the other homeless folks who've lived at the encampment for years said they will fight to stay. And they want to have input in the city's improvement plan.

"It's another punch to the gut, but there's enough of us here," Blackwell said. "There's strength in numbers. There's enough of us out here wanting to stay for the right reason."

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave a message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU, Instagram @AmberKTVU or Twitter @AmberKTVU.