The recently resolved issue of a homeless encampment in Dimond Park in Oakland’s Dimond District (see photo), brought out a lot of comments, and many of them not so kind, on a local Oakland listserv that will not be named for the purpose of blogging.
This comes in the backdrop of efforts to hide the homeless:
The @googlemaps / Street View team are censoring the homeless crisis that is taking over most cities, this time in Oakland. This encampment, visible from above, visible from the corner, and erased as we move closer. @Timcast @Oakland #Homeless pic.twitter.com/H1uJ6qPZmr
— Martin Armando (@BusOfKidsOnAcid) August 9, 2019
The reporting started with an entry that read like this:
“Just FYI…there is a homeless encampment at El Centro and Hanley, just off the path leading to the pool/playground. We walked past and saw ample evidence that they are defecating at the edge of the creek. Their pile of litter is growing every day too. We’ve written many times to several agencies and local representatives, and even sent photos, to no avail. This is a sad situation for a park and a creek that so much work and money has gone into.”
And that prompted a response that said “Agreed that this is a sad situation for everyone involved.including, but not limited, to all of the children who regularly play at Dimond Park and go on hikes right past that area as part of the camps at Dimond.”
And then another resident added this:
Regarding the Dimond Park homeless encampment, tents have previously cropped up in this spot in the past year. Illegal dumping at the roadside there was reported to soon follow. Seeing as this is in a public park so close to the children’s play area, and with children wading into/playing in the creek, the health hazard of the human fecal material is particularly troubling.
The past director of the Dimond rec center had told parents of kids in the past that the only way the city will address the issue is when there is a critical mass of several people reporting it via the city’s online public blight tool. It took several parents of kids who play there and participate in the Dimond day camp and after school programs to report it before it was addressed.
For those who are interested, below is the link to report. You can leave your email to get updates, or report anonymously.
And this one:
Please note that the couple are using the Dimond Park bathrooms and not leaving waste near or in the creek. In addition, as to concerns about trash in the area, they will place trash in park cans as needed for now.
If neighbors see any human waste in the area, please report it immediately to the City via the OAK311 app or by calling 311 from within City limits.
Then Debra Israel of Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo’s Office added this entry:
I am a special assistant working for Councilmember Gallo and also a resident of the Glenview. I was notified of concerns regarding a tent located near El Centro and Hanly Road and visited the young couple living there.
I was able to connect them to outreach staff contracted by the City to support our houseless neighbors. They will be offered resources to link them to County and City programs that will eventually lead to housing.
Please be aware that this is a lengthy process and in the meantime, the couple may continue to reside at this location.
For more information on Oakland and how it is addressing housing and homelessness, visit their website:
Another resident made this request:
We have an individual, couple, or family (unclear to me) that are sadly homeless, seeking a place to stay, and confronting Glenview with the problem of city wife homeless persons and eliciting very different concerns about what can be done to help.
Much has been said regarding regulations prohibiting camping in our city parks (notably Dimond) and a desire to help in some constructive way. As compassionate as some of us may feel, no one has offered in shelter in our homes.
I would raise one more issue and that is the “personal safety” of the campers. By technically breaking the laws about camping and the tacit acceptance of the status quo by our Council Member Gallo’s office, they are actually placed in a situation of insecurity perhaps by persons outside our community intent on harm.
Roy, a critic of the encampment, has also made a caring effort to find a “temporary” and more suitable location. What he has suggested seems better than the current situation.
I would ask that Council Member Gallo allow you to focus “exclusively” on finding a place for these campers that will be safe and not encroach on public park space. And that you proceed as quickly as possible..
Please report back of your progress,
And this came from a testy resident:
That decision seems unilateral and hasty. Even if you let them stay a while, there are better locations in the park. For example, up on the hill with the stone pines (off of Fruitvale) is less intrusive and closer to the bathrooms.
And then the comments got worse:
Totally Crazy to let them Stay. How long before Other homeless Folk find out about their cozy new spot?? It Will be a Nightmare. Can’t believe they are getting away with this and whomever approved it doesn’t see the long time harm..
And another resident added “I just walked by there. Trash. Soiled toilet paper.”
And then another Oaklander in the area chimed in with word of empathy:
“We agree that it is so important to remember that houseless folks are human beings and everyone has a different experience. I see two world views being expressed. Linda thinks it is insane to let the couple stay in the park. The neighbor and my household really want to express empathy and let the problem be solved in kindness. It is being worked on and a solution to houselessness for all our Oakland community is necessary. In the meantime, we have to remember our shared humanity and go from there.”
And someone else wrote this:
I left a box of baby wipes.
There is an alternative location. From the end of the main parking lot above the rec center, take the short trail up the hill. Turn right. There is a level camping spot under the furthest pine.
The tree was recently pruned. So no danger of falling limbs or pine cones.
The spot has better privacy, and is closer to bathrooms, trash cans, Safeway, and transit.
If they are going to make a mess, at least it won’t be by the creek, or trail.
Then this meanness, again:
Isn’t this a city/legal issue??…private citizens should not have to get involved.One tent, to me, is ok, but if it grows into more, action should be taken quickly, and by the city and/or law enforcement. Homelessness is a huge problem, but taking over our nice parks where people go with their kids to play and relax, should not be an option.
This blogger wonders what a homeless person’s supposed to do? Many of the people are beyond cold. You would think they would team up and go and get some basic supplies for them, rather than complaining about their choice of where to camp. If they are so concerned, then buy them a new tent home. But, the person who left that comment doesn’t care:
Right, A group of unauthorized human beings using the park as a place to live is not fair to the folks bordering the park, and people who’s kids play in the park who may have concerns about the potential concerns that arise from a homeless encampment.
Eventually, the Oakland Police were called because someone issued a complaint fearing for their children. That, even though the couple harmed no one. This is what one resident wrote:
My son and I spoke to the two young campers over by the scout hut. They seemed nice & had all their belongings packed up.
They said the police came by bc they received calls from someone fearing for the safety of their children. The police advised them they would have to be gone by tomorrow.
I mentioned to them the concerns about other parks being taken over & also about the uniqueness of the creeks ecosystem. They were very understanding.
We also spoke about the idea to sleep higher up by where the trees have been trimmed. They had also been contemplating this. They were waiting for a friend who is in the area to help them decide.
Their friend came as we we’re speaking & we left them to their deliberations, with best wishes whatever they decide & “stay safe”. Oakland can still be dangerous out there (their friend agreed).
Councilmember Gallo’s aide wrote this 16 hours ago:
The couple has moved from the area near the creek. Thanks go to neighbors that were on site cleaning debris this morning. I have been unable to locate them at this time and will check around the park and continue to attempt to connect them to services.
I will inform Park and City staff.
And then the main complainer left this response:
If they want to be left alone, in general, when living in a park or other public place you’d think their behavior would be better. They leave debris, soiled toilet paper?…That’s disgusting. How can expect to be welcome Anywhere when they don’t treat the space around them with dignity.
That’s easy to say when the person writing that has money and roof over their heads. Such insensitivity to others is what formed the political climate that made Donald Trump President.
Oakland has to do better by its own. We need more extremely affordable housing.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media