Oakland council says unsheltered can't sleep in parks near homes and schools, but will not seek arrests

Oakland passed a new homeless encampment policy on Tuesday that limits where encampments can be located in certain parts of the city.

The approved policy does not allow homeless people to sleep in parks and near homes, businesses and schools but also states they will not be arrested for setting up camp outside. 

Mayor Libby Schaaf said it "affirms a core Oakland value: We will never cite nor arrest someone simply for being poor or sleeping outside." 

“I’m grateful to the City Council who voted unanimously for a new encampment policy that will help us improve the well-being of all our residents, housed and unhoused," Schaaf added in a statement. "Ending homelessness is a moral imperative. This policy establishes Oakland’s first set of citywide rules." 

The policy has been rejected by several homeless advocate groups, including The Village in Oakland, where founder Needa Bee told KTVU she is disappointed the policy was unanimously approved by the city council.

“This is not the policy we want, this is not the policy we need,” she said. “Everything that's being told is clever language.”

Bee said she and other homeless advocates are concerned the majority of Oakland will be off-limits for homeless people and said the new restrictions will leave homeless people with no place to go. She said the policy will affect communities of color.

“They'll be off in the cuffs, behind the airport where no one can see them, along the port of Oakland… out of sight, out of mind,” Bee said. “For the waves of unhoused folks that are about to hit the streets once these eviction moratoriums are lifted, people won't realize how deep the housing inequity is because that wave of people will be invisible as well.”

Taylor said while there are some people in the unhoused community disagree with the policy, they also heard from an “overwhelming” amount of unhoused people who said they welcomed the new parameters.

“This policy is set up so that we will continue to learn and have feedback, but the overall goal is that we lead with compassion and Oakland values supporting our unhoused residents in the transition while also understanding that we need to maintain a sense of public safety at our encampments and around them,” he said.

Oakland’s homeless population has increased by 47% from 2017 to 2019. The number of unsheltered people, during that same time period, increased by 68%. Oakland has about 140 encampments of tents and RVs.

Enforcement will begin in January.