By John Ramos

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland has a nasty problem: giant piles of garbage dumped at homeless encampments by people looking for a convenient place to get rid of trash. While the problem may be obvious, how to stop it is a matter of debate.

To Natasha, a woman living at an encampment on Peralta Street…the solution is fairly simple.

“A dumpster would help – a dumpster,” she said, “‘Cause that’s like the city is trying to accommodate us, but, they need to bring a dumpster.”

But the city tried that once and someone lit a huge fire in it. So now it’s gone.

And while some feel it’s not nearly enough, Joe DeVries, an Assistant to Oakland’s City Administrator, said the newest budget includes $100,000 to provide more pickups and sanitary services.

“We hope that our larger encampments, until we can resolve them and find housing for people, that we can put in port-a-potties, garbage cans, regular garbage service for them,” said DeVries.

The city feels if the campers’ garbage was removed regularly it would discourage illegal dumpers from operating here.  In addition, Oakland also has a reward program: splitting the $1,000 fine with anyone who turns in a dumper.

But homeless activists say the sidewalk dumping will only cease when Oakland devotes some of its land for the homeless to live on.

“It becomes harder for people to feel they can just randomly show up and dump next to homeless folks when we actually have an organized village,” said activist  Needa Vee.

But the city says its efforts to create a living space for the homeless at one of its parks didn’t work out well.

“Things deteriorated,” DeVries said, “And so what we’ve learned from that is you need an on-site manager, you need security guards, you need some basic rules.  You can’t just say go stay on this land.”

That would surely cost more than $100,000. But as the city ponders solutions to the dumping problem there is this incentive: Oakland currently spends $5 million a year in cleanup costs, only to have the garbage continue to pile up.


  1. I know as I type this, its difficult to implement and there would be challenges.
    But why not have a 3-4 “free day”, per year, at the landfills / dumps / refuge stations?