Oakland opens new parking lot for homeless RV dwellers

In the shadow of the Oakland Coliseum, a half dozen recreational vehicles now sit in a city-owned parking lot with round-the-clock security, running water, a port-a-potty and counseling services.

"So far so good. I've been here about a week. Pretty good deal," said Rick Martinez.
Martinez is one of the RV dwellers who recently moved in.

He had been parked among a mass of RVs on 85th avenue a few blocks away.

Martinez says it isn't safe there.

"I've got a wife in a wheelchair. I have to go to work. Those guys break into cars. All kind of stuff," he said. 

Moving near the Coliseum he says is much better. 

"Safety. Security. It's free," Martinez said,

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf unveiled a new homeless initiative called "RV Safe Parking."

"We are excited to be doing something to alleviate the impact of the residents of East Oakland as well as improve the safety, security, and hygiene of our neighbors, who because of the housing crisis, are forced to live in these RVs," said Schaaf.

The plan is to expand the community to 30 RVs and then perhaps 50.

Only RVs that have been camped on 85th and Edes avenues will be invited to move into the lot, which should alleviate problems for the neighborhood.

"We do not find it acceptable for people to use our sidewalks as trash cans, to put human waste in our storm drain systems. That is not acceptable or sustainable," said Schaaf. 

After a yet unspecified time, RVs will be banned from parking overnight in that neighborhood.

But one man, who asked to remain anonymous and works near the newly opened, wonders if the city is just fixing a problem in one area by creating a new one in another place.

"There is always a percentage of the population involved in drugs. Drug dealing," he said. "My concern is as it gets populated these activities will spill over in surrounding areas, surrounding businesses."

"When people live in a safe, secure regulated environment, it is so much better then when they are living in a completely unregulated one," said Joe DeVries, who runs Oakland's homeless services.

Oakland has hundreds of RVs on the street.

City officials say if all goes well they hope to open two more RV parking lots by the end of the summer.