The new policy affects Oakland’s over 4,000 homeless people. It prohibits them from camping within 100 feet of certain high sensitivity areas. Places like schools, senior centers, or medical facilities. Camping in the public right of way or under BART tracks is banned altogether. It’s set to take effect in January.
Oakland wants to move people from these areas into temporary housing sites and shelters. But critics of the new rules say that it doesn’t help get people off the streets. Dale Smith is an organizer with the United Front Against Displacement, a homeless advocacy group.
"Their plan is just to get people out of sight and eventually out of Oakland. I’ve talked to people who've stayed in the Tuff Sheds, shelters, and the safe RV lots, and the vast majority of them will tell you nobody has ever talked to them about housing"
Smith says resources would be better spent putting people in the city’s empty hotel rooms and investing in programs to get them out of poverty. But Oakland’s leaders are looking towards co-governed encampments to help the unhoused.
These are homeless encampments permitted by the city where residents make rules and a third party, like a non-profit enforces them. They may also provide services like housing assistance or health care. The model is already in use in cities like Portland and Seattle.
Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas said in a press release: “The city now has clear direction to create at least one co-governed encampment pilot within the next four months with an unsheltered community.”
Bas said she would prioritize working with the unhoused Athol Courts community near Lake Merritt. Adding that the city will look to create co-governed encampments on both public and private land in each Oakland council district.