An eye-opening map shows the scale of Oakland’s growing homelessness crisis just a day after the Supreme Court let stand a ruling that protects people’s rights to sleep on the street across several Western states.
Homelessness has soared in Oakland in the last two years, from 1,900 in 2017 to more than 3,000 people living on the streets in 2019. The number of residents living in cars or mobile homes has jumped 131 per cent, from 618 to 1,430.
One of the city’s largest homeless camps, which has at least one hundred residents, sits right next to a Home Depot parking lot in East Oakland.
Homelessness in Oakland started to skyrocket between 2015 and 2017, when the number of homeless individuals increased by 26 per cent. The crisis has also seen homelessness in the state’s capital, Sacramento, shoot up by a shocking 19 per cent in the past two years.
Nearly 70 per cent of homeless individuals in the city are Black, according to Oakland Homeless Response.
California alone accounts for 50 per cent of the nation’s homeless population due to astronomical housing costs, a housing inventory deficit, and a decrease in state funding. Data show that more than 130,000 people are living on the streets across California.
An eye-opening map (pictured) shows the scale of Oakland’s growing homelessness crisis just a day after the Supreme Court let stand a ruling that protects people’s rights to sleep on the street across several Western states
Homelessness in Oakland started to skyrocket between 2015 and 2017 (depicted above), when the number of homeless individuals increased by 26 per cent
Data (above) from Oakland shows that nearly 70 per cent of homeless individuals in the city are Black, according to Oakland Homeless Response
This graphic shows that 86 per cent of the homeless in Oakland were residents prior to becoming homeless
In 2016, Oakland and Alameda County voters approved local measures for affordable housing production but noted that the affordable housing deficit will take years to overcome. Rent assistance is factor that may have prevented some individuals from becoming homeless in the city (as depicted above)
In 2016, Oakland and Alameda County voters approved local measures for affordable housing production but noted that the affordable housing deficit will take years to overcome.
The crisis prompted Governor Gavin Newsom and mayors of the state’s 13 largest cities to send President Donald Trump a letter in September asking his administration to provide more aid to fight homelessness, including an additional 50,000 housing vouchers for the poor.
But Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson rejected the housing aid request in a letter, saying that California’s policies on law enforcement, an over-regulated housing market and sanctuary policies regarding people living in the country illegally, have driven up housing costs while increasing demand.
‘Your letter seeks more federal dollars for California from hardworking American taxpayers but fails to admit that your state and local policies have played a major role in creating the current crisis,’ Carson wrote at the time.
Carson said nearly 500,000 California households already receive some kind of federal housing assistance and said ‘federal taxpayers are clearly doing their part to help solve the crisis’.
City officials have proposed drastic measures to help combat the crisis, including the use of a cruise ship to house up to 1,000 homeless people.
Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan told a council meeting last week that the ship would be brought to the Port of Oakland, something port officials said would be ‘untenable’.
‘It could be a great way to house a lot of people quickly,’ Kaplan said.
‘Cruise ships have been used for emergency housing after natural disasters and for extra housing for things like Olympics.’
Ed Hansen organizes walking sticks that he carved in a homeless encampment at Union Point Park in Oakland, California, in November
A woman walks through a homeless encampment at Union Point Park in Oakland, California, in November
The crisis prompted Governor Gavin Newsom and mayors of the state’s 13 largest cities to send President Donald Trump a letter in September asking his administration to provide more aid to fight homelessness, including an additional 50,000 housing vouchers for the poor. A person carries items from a dwelling at a homeless encampment in Oakland, California
But Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson rejected the housing aid request, saying that California’s policies on law enforcement, an over-regulated housing market and sanctuary policies regarding people living in the country illegally, have driven up housing costs while increasing demand. A homeless man is seen begging for change in San Francisco
Kaplan compared her vision for an Oakland cruise ship to something like the Queen Mary in Long Beach in Southern California.
The 1936 ocean liner is now a floating hotel with 347 rooms. A room with two twin beds rents for $141 a night and $146 a night for a full-size bed.
‘It could be like that,’ Kaplan said. ‘But as affordable housing instead of hotel.’
But port officials disagree. ‘We respect President Kaplan’s desire to address homelessness but Port of Oakland docks are designed to work cargo ships, there isn’t the infrastructure to berth a cruise ship,’ port spokesman Mike Zampa said.
The port is among the 10 busiest in the nation and safety and security issues in the federally regulated facilities ‘would make residential uses untenable,’ Zampa said.
Kaplan said she has been contacted by cruise ship companies about providing a ship for emergency housing, and that the companies were reaching out to the Port of Oakland about what options exist to park a ship at the port, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
She didn’t provide further details on those companies and she didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Kaplan said she plans to present a proposal to the council in January that will be ‘no or low’ cost to the city because residents of the cruise ship would pay for rooms based on their income. The city would not buy the cruise ship.
Even residents of Oakland have been trying to take matters into their own hands. Just two weeks ago, business owners placed large logs along a commercial street in the city to stop homeless encampments being set up outside their stores.
The logs – some of which measured ten feet in length – appeared December 2 on West Oakland’s Poplar Street – a popular place for the homeless to park their RVs and dilapidated vehicles.
On Monday, Supreme Court justices said the high court will not review an appellate decision that makes it harder for cities to keep homeless people from sleeping on the streets.
In a ruling that applies across several Western states, including California, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Boise, Idaho, could not make it a crime for homeless people to sleep on the streets when no alternative shelter is available. The decision the justices refused to review found that the Boise ordinance violated the constitutional ban on ‘cruel and unusual punishment’.
Many cities along the West Coast had similar restrictions to Boise, which must now be dropped in the wake of the ruling.
Officials in Santa Rosa are set to unveil proposals to shelter people in fairgrounds. In Santa Rosa, more than 180 people have set up a mile-long camp along the Joe Rodota Trail, next to Highway 12. A woman, who was only identified by her first name Lisa, is one of the 185 homeless people living in a mile-long encampment along Joe Rodota Trail in Santa Rosa
Reyvon Hill, an encampment resident, takes cover from the rain under a wading pool as she stands along the trail in Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa camp resident Mike Westfall stands next to his tent and his bike. A plan to house the homeless, like Mike, in fairgrounds will be announced on Tuesday
Johnathan Rosario also lives at the homeless encampment in Santa Rosa, California, along with his dog
Renee Urrutia is seen next to her tent in the encampment in Santa Rosa. The proposal to house the homeless on fairgrounds will include safe camping spots, reaching out to families of those living on the streets and using multiple bedroom homes to keep communities formed on the streets together
About 20 ‘friend of the court’ briefs were filed in the Boise case asking the Supreme Court to overturn the 9th Circuit’s ruling. The reasoning in the briefs varied, but many municipalities indicated they feared the ruling would lead to public health issues if homeless camps were allowed to proliferate.
The 9th Circuit and other regional courts have made similar rulings: In 2007, the circuit ruled in favor of homeless residents of Los Angeles, finding that as long as there are more homeless residents than there are shelter beds, a law outlawing sleeping outside was unconstitutional. The entire lawsuit was later thrown out after both sides reached an agreement.
US Supreme Court leaves in place ruling barring prosecution of homeless
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a bid by Boise to overturn a lower court’s ruling that prohibited authorities in the Idaho city from prosecuting homeless people for staying outside if a bed at an emergency shelter is not available.
The justices left in place a ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that fining or jailing homeless people for sleeping in public or unauthorized places violates the U.S. Constitution’s bar on cruel and unusual punishment, a decision the city said threatens public health and safety.
Reporting by Reuters
In 2009, a federal judge said a Portland, Oregon, rule designed to prevent people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks was unconstitutional. A Washington state judge rejected a similar anti-camping law in Everett, Washington.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who has pushed for the city’s policy of ticketing homeless ‘campers,’ was defeated in the November election. His spokesman Mike Journee said it’s now up to Mayor-elect Lauren McLean’s administration to decide what to do next.
In a statement, McLean didn’t say how her administration would address the 9th Circuity ruling. Instead, she said the city would continue working with ‘key community partners in housing and homelessness, and believe we have effective, humane and constitutionally sound solutions in our grasp’.
Howard Belodoff, the Idaho Legal Aid attorney who represented the Boise homeless residents in the case, said he and his clients were grateful for the high court’s decision.
‘Which I’m sure they didn’t expect when they got a citation, were arrested and taken to jail and were sentenced to pay court costs they couldn’t possibly afford, all because shelter wasn’t available to them,’ Belodoff said.
He said he was gratified his clients stuck with the case for many years, and said the decision means a lot for homeless individuals throughout the West.
‘The net result, in my opinion, is that local officials and municipalities will have to address the issues surrounding homelessness, and not just make it a crime to sleep,’ he said.
A plan to allow some of the 3,000 people living on the streets in Sonoma County to move into the makeshift shelters will be unveiled Tuesday, reports say. Picture courtesy of KPIX 5
Leaders in the city, struggling with the biggest homeless camp in its history, are said to have been inspired by how the fairgrounds were used during wildfires and flooding. ABC7 image
The mile-long camp in Santa Rosa is next to highway 12 between Stony Point and Wright roads
Los Angeles County was among the municipalities to support Boise in the lawsuit. County supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the county’s effort was not to criminalize the homeless but rather, ‘a pursuit of a legal framework that is clear – in comparison to a status quo that is ambiguous and confusing’.
He said the current law makes it hard for cities and counties to act nimbly to aid people who may be dying on the street.
Belodoff said cities like Boise and Los Angeles have plenty of tools available to address homelessness without resorting to handcuffs.
‘They should take the hundreds of thousands of dollars they were going to spend on attorneys and put it into planning to address the issues so people don’t have to sleep on the streets,’ Belodoff said.
Meanwhile in other parts of California, officials are proposing emergency legislation to combat the issue.
Officials in Santa Rosa are set to unveil proposals to shelter people in fairgrounds. In Santa Rosa, more than 180 people have set up a mile-long camp along the Joe Rodota Trail, next to Highway 12.
The proposed plan, set to be unveiled on Tuesday, will allow some of those living in the camp and the rest of the 3,000 homeless people in Sonoma County to move into the fairgrounds, according to The Press Democrat.
Leaders in the city, struggling with the biggest homeless camp in its history, are said to have been inspired by how the fairgrounds were used during wildfires and flooding.
The proposal to house the homeless on fairgrounds in Santa Rosa will include safe camping spots, reaching out to families of those living on the streets and using multiple bedroom homes to keep communities formed on the streets together.
Homeless advocate Scott Wagner told The Press Democrat: ‘The rains beginning every year is the most significant time for homeless people. New homeless people are lost and they’re going to screw up badly.
The homeless mile-long encampment set up along the Joe Rodota trail has at least 185 people living in it, with around 100 tents
Homeless advocate Scott Wagner told The Press Democrat: ‘The rains beginning every year is the most significant time for homeless people’
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins looks after the Joe Rodota Trail between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol said that during the Kincade fire a massive response was mobilized – and that same level of response should apply to the homeless crisis we were able to mobilize a
Instead of living in the mile-long camp, the homeless living in the fairground shelter will have full time security, as well as medical help and mental health support. Those with access would receive water, sanitation and heat
Emergency measures in Santa Rosa will also propose safe camping spots, reaching out to families of those living on the streets and using multiple bedroom homes to keep communities formed on the streets together
The fairground shelter will have full time security, as well as medical help and mental health support. Those with access would receive water, sanitation and heat
Two weeks ago, business owners placed large logs (pictured) along a commercial street in Oakland to stop homeless encampments being set up outside their stores
Some cities, have gone to extreme measures to keep the homeless off of their property. For example, in September a group of residents placed nearly two dozen boulders (pictured) along a sidewalk to keep people from camping outside their homes
California’s growing homeless emergency. Figures as of August 2019, include San Francisco with 8,011 homeless people and San Diego with 8,576
‘Old homeless people are gonna get sick. They’re all shoved into these weird places like this.’
There are thought to be around 185 people living along the Joe Rodota Trail, between Stony Point and Wright roads. It includes more than 100 tents and temporary shelters.
Santa Rosa Mayor Tom Schwedhelm said: ‘From my perspective, any additional resources to help us address this current situation is a good thing.
‘We’re getting an earful from a lot of community residents, ‘Why aren’t you guys doing something?’ And, well, we are but it just takes time, and I don’t control the priorities of all the people involved.’
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins looks after the Joe Rodota Trail between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. She said: ‘During the Kincade fire we were able to mobilize a massive response — we need that level of response to the homeless crisis.
‘We need to wake up and treat it like the crisis is it. We declared an emergency a year and a half ago, but we didn’t treat it like an emergency.’
The fairground shelter will have full time security, as well as medical help and mental health support. Those with access would receive water, sanitation and heat.
And there will be a zero tolerance for on-site drug use but those battling addictions will not be refused entry, according to the executive directer of the county Community Development Commission, Geoffrey Ross.
Ross insisted the plans were part of a number of proposals, adding: ‘What we’re trying to do is engage in a conversation with the board about options that are all centered on how do we address the homeless crises that are present on the trail at this moment.’
The fairgrounds will be fenced off if the proposal goes ahead, with 24/7 security.
Sacramento, which has an estimated population of 1.5 million, has a significantly smaller homeless population than Los Angeles, but the problem is growing
Sacramento’s homeless population has risen 19 per cent in two years, with 5,570 people living on the streets. Pictured above is a man sleeping on the sidewalk in broad daylight
The crisis has also seen homelessness in Sacramento shoot up by a shocking 19 per cent in the past two years. Brian Workman, who is originally from San Jose, lives beneath Interstate 80 in Sacramento
Supervisor Shirlee Zane added: ‘By treating it as a crisis, we respond to it as a crisis. When we had fires and floods who stepped in – how is 200 people living on a park trail not an emergency in this horrible weather? It’s an emergency.’
Similar to how Oakland residents used logs as preventative measures, the problem has led to fed-up residents in other parts of the state taking extreme measures to keep the homeless out of their neighborhoods.
In San Francisco, residents set up two dozen large boulders along a half-block stretch of sidewalk on Clinton Park to prevent camps from being set up.
The boulder barrier sat along a half-block stretch of sidewalk on Clinton Park in the Mission Dolores neighborhood. A week later, the city removed the barrier over safety concerns.
In downtown Los Angeles Skid Row has become a symbol of the national crisis, while in San Francisco nearly one person in every one hundred lives on the streets.
In June images from downtown Los Angeles showed trash piling up as workers struggled to keep the area sanitized. They were pictured wearing face masks among the dirt and grime.
A decision to not cap the total amount of property that homeless people can keep on Skid Row was announced earlier this year and it sparked fury among some officials who say it will ‘only perpetuate the public health crisis that already exists’ there.
Last week, officials from Lancaster said it may place a ban on feeding the homeless in public places.
The controversial measure was proposed during a city council meeting as Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris defended the proposed legislation.