By Zack Haber
Oakland’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and Police Department followed Mayor Libby Schaaf’s city administration’s orders on Tuesday to evict about two dozen homeless residents who lived along the perimeter of Raimondi Park in West Oakland.
“[The City of Oakland] is messing with peoples’ lives,” said 56-year-old homeless resident Larry Coke, who grew up in Oakland. “This is not a checker or chess game and they can’t just move people around anytime they feel like it.”
Many of the Raimondi Park homeless residents were surprised at the sudden eviction. In the past, city workers had come by to do outreach work and had given residents two weeks notice before they were forced to relocate. This time, Coke reports, no representatives came and he found out about the move due to a notice posted four days before the eviction by Operation Dignity, a local non-profit that works in collaboration with the city.
The homeless residents were also surprised at the sudden move because on May 1, 2019, the city had provided toilets, barriers to protect them from traffic, and had given them permission to live along Raimondi Park’s perimeter between 18th and 20th streets, an area that borders a field used for soccer and football. Previously they’d lived scattered all around the park.
Oakland’s DPW removed the barriers and bathrooms during the eviction. They also destroyed two self-made homes and cleared debris. Auto Plus Towing towed at least three vehicles out of the area, one of which belonged to Anthony Thompkins, a person who has lived in Oakland since his childhood and had been using his vehicle as a home.
Thompkins had trouble moving during the eviction day due to various health problems and a recent operation. His right toe appeared swollen to roughly twice its normal size as he talked with The Oakland Post.
“The people in that area were…recently evicted and forced to move all of their belongings over to this spot where the city said they would be safe,” said Talya Husbands-Hankin, who volunteers with the Homeless Advocacy Working Group and was on site during the eviction to help the homeless residents. “For the city to ask them to move again on an extremely hot day with nothing provided except what volunteers bring is unacceptable.”
Accuweather reports that the temperature reached 95 degrees in West Oakland during the eviction day.The Oakland Post has emailed Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney three times over the past month asking for comments related to the homeless people staying in her district but she has not responded.
The Oakland Post asked Assistant City Administrator Joe DeVries why the homeless people were being forced to move, but he has not responded.
Homeless people that The Oakland Post spoke with insisted that they want more communication, collaboration, and better plans from Schaaf and the city officials who directly make policy.
“I don’t need to hear from Operation Dignity or the police and I’m not blaming them” said Larry Coke. “I need to hear from the people who are in charge.”
“They don’t have nobody come out and try to help people like me who had an operation and can’t get around,” said Anthony Thompkins. “They should collaborate with us instead of sending the police who just run us off the place.”
This article originally appeared in Oakland Post.