OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Homeless encampments in downtown Oakland have turned into an ever-worsening eyesores because of people using the sites as a trash dumping ground.
“I think if I was coming into Oakland for the first time and drove by this on the way to Jack London square, I’d probably turn around and go home.”
That’s what Marty Outlaw says about the piles of garbage on the sidewalk outside his plumbing supply business. Tents of the homeless also block the sidewalks but it is the trash that really bothers him.
“When people see areas that look like they’ve been dumped, other people are gonna come and dump things there as well,” he said.
That’s exactly what’s happening at one encampment at 5th and Market in Oakland. The trash wasn’t brought in by the homeless. It’s dumped here – by the truckload – by people trying to avoid the fee at the refuse facility.
Often it’s done under the guise of “donating” to the homeless. “They have a couple bags of clothing or furniture or a bed or blankets,” said Chantal Zimmerman who lives in the homeless encampment. “The rest is trash. And they leave it behind.”
Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo has begun something of a crusade about this. He hopes businesses will put up surveillance cameras to catch the illegal dumpers so the city can prosecute and fine them.
“I will say if you allow this to continue it will continue to grow,” Gallo says.
It’s a nasty problem with no easy solution. The city’s compassion for the homeless has led to leniency. Now others are exploiting that to turn Oakland into the Bay Area’s dumping ground.