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Schaaf Administration Calls for Police Action to Curb Homelessness

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Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration has plans on paper to help the homeless get off the streets. But in reality, the administration’s approach has been and remains more openly hostile to the presence of the thousands of homeless residents nestled in the shadows of the market-rate high rises that crowd the Oakland skyline.

The city is spending $34 million this year on a plan called Oakland’s Permanent Access to Housing (PATH), which “aims to end homelessness in the city in 15 years” and has produced some Tuff sheds and shelter beds.

Needless to say, children who live in tents, under tarps or in dilapidated recreational vehicles will grow to adulthood without ever living in a house in the decade and half that the administration is proposing to build a PATH to the end of homelessness.

The city’s approach not only lacks a sense of urgency, it also relies on the aggressive use of law enforcement to counter the proliferation of the unhoused, using the Oakland Police Department to close some encampments and “clean and clear” others at an accelerating rate.

According to Darwin BondGraham, an investigative reporter who reports on Oakland police and other city issues, the city closed 35 camps last year.

This year through November, 133 camps were closed, BondGraham reported.

The city’s December 2019 “closure” and “clean and clear” schedule targeted a number of encampments, including ones on Kirkham Street, International Boulevard and in Joaquin Miller Park.

The city administration is also suggesting that the City Council approve a policy to allow police to give citations to the homeless who take up space on the streets and sidewalks and in parks, according to the East Bay Times.

“If the City Council supported a strong position that encampments in parks are not acceptable, then (Oakland Police) could begin to warn and eventually cite those who repeatedly violate the policy,” the staff proposal said.

The administration proposes that police would give two warnings and then issue citations to the homeless who sleep in parks and plazas and sit on sidewalk and other “high pedestrian traffic areas.” Those who re-enter closed encampments could also receive citations.

In a report on the city’s management of homeless encampment, dated Nov. 24, 2019, Assistant to the City Administrator Joe DeVries suggested the proposal for issuing citations to the homeless.

DeVries was scheduled to present his report at last Wednesday’s City Council committee meeting, but, confronted angry homeless advocates, he left the meeting without making a presentation.

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