Inside a Homeless Encampment — as It’s Being Torn Down

Tuesday: A special report from Oakland. Also: Gov. Gavin Newsom slams PG&E; and layoffs at Uber.Oct. 15, 2019, 9:04 a.m. ETImageOakland municipal employees watched as an RV was broken down and loaded into waiting trucks after being cleared from a lot where a homeless encampment was being disassembled.CreditJim Wilson/The New York TimesGood morning.(If you don’t…

Inside a Homeless Encampment — as It’s Being Torn Down

Tuesday: A special report from Oakland. Also: Gov. Gavin Newsom slams PG&E; and layoffs at Uber.Oct. 15, 2019, 9:04 a.m. ETImageOakland municipal employees watched as an RV was broken down and loaded into waiting trucks after being cleared from a lot where a homeless encampment was being disassembled.CreditJim Wilson/The New York TimesGood morning.(If you don’t already get California Today by email, here’s the sign-up.)Today, we have a special dispatch from my colleague Conor Dougherty, who writes about housing and economics. He’s based in Oakland, where tensions over gentrification and homelessness have been rising. Here’s his piece: Nobody who lived in the homeless camp on Wood Street in Oakland was surprised when police cars and helmeted motorcycle officers started driving up and down the block early on a Tuesday. Their arrival was promised by bright signs, and city workers had spent the weeks prior going from resident to resident to prepare them for eviction.But it wasn’t until a city front loader started tearing down plywood shanties that people started moving in earnest. The front loader was followed by a dump truck with an overhead grappling arm that consumed leftover piles of dirty blankets and splintered furniture. Residents scurried away with wheelbarrows of belongings and bikes hitched with trailers.“It’s important to get the basics,” said Mahnaz Saberi, 44, who lives in a shed on a nearby dirt lot and rushed over with a dolly to help those being evicted. She had been moved several times by the city, she said, and had something of a strategy. “Extra blanket, your flashlights, your grill. Like things that you know that you’re going to need that night.”Recent stories have shed light on the growing pressure to close California’s multiplying homeless camps or prevent them from popping up, reflecting a central tension for California and its liberal cities. Elected officials generally want to approach homelessness in a compassionate and service-oriented manner. But they have to manage the health and public safety issues that homelessness brings, as well as complaints from homeowners, tenants and merchants.[Read more: Who would fire bomb a homeless encampment in Los Angeles?]This tension was present on Wood Street, in an industrial stretch of West Oakland sandwiched between Interstate 880 and a residential neighborhood. Many of the camp’s residents had come from a park cleared by the city in May, reassembling their makeshift homes not far away along a chain-link fence at the park’s western boundary. The city later trucked in portable toilets and hand-washing stations, and soon a dense little community had formed, attracting newcomers like Tommy Goodluck.Mr. Goodluck is a 55-year-old former carpenter from Wisconsin who has been in and out of prison for drug arrests. He survives on late-night scrapping jobs, lives in a trailer and uses improvised amenities like a fire-heated bathtub that he fills from hydrants.H
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