City-sanctioned homeless campground coming to Oakland

With the explosion of tent encampments reaching crisis level in Oakland, city officials are looking to turn an empty lot into a sanctioned homeless campground — complete with sanitation and other services.

“We are looking at a couple of sites in West Oakland,” said Joe DeVries, an assistant to the city administrator, who works on homeless issues. “We hope to have something lined up in the next couple of months.”

The camp would accommodate 40 tents and probably be overseen by staffers from a nonprofit under a contract with the city.

The goal is to create something like a low-cost version of San Francisco’s Navigation Centers, with support services staffers on hand to help steer camp residents into counseling, rehab and housing.

Oakland is becoming increasingly confounded about how to handle the spread of tent camps, including some where garbage is spilling into streets. At one camp near Interstate 880, we recently counted 70 tents and other structures — and spotted traffic cones that the homeless had put in place to block off part of the street.

Not that motorists always take notice. “A car just missed me,” said Roger Harris, who lives in a tent with his girlfriend, who is six months pregnant. “It’s crazy, and it doesn’t seem like the city is doing anything.”

“We know it’s a problem,” DeVries said. “We need to find a way to get them to push it back.”

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Chris Alexakis