OAKLAND (KPIX) — The city of Oakland will no longer tolerate homeless encampments on Lake Merritt.
City workers spent the day throwing tents in the trash, evicting more than a dozen homeless people who have been camping by the lake.READ MORE: UPDATE: Pleasant Hill In-N-Out Burger Shut Down for Repeatedly Defying COVID Health Order
Andrew Flory, who’s been sleeping next to Lake Merritt for more than a year.
“I’m soaked to the bone, I’ve been up stressing,” Flory said, as he watched his tent being dragged to the curb. “For lack of a better word this is pretty messed up,” he said.
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The city will continue clearing encampments around the lake on Friday. This is something Oakland has done with encampments before. Last time, they were hit with a lawsuit but a federal judge sided with the city and determined that, so long as Oakland offers people an alternative place to go and gives them a warning months in advance of the eviction, the city can keep clearing squatters off its property.
“Everyone knew exactly what was going on long before we got here — our system is compassionate, methodical, and it’s clear cut,” said Joe Devries, assistant to the city administrator.
“The programs we have for shelter are voluntary. We can’t force them, though we want to, we do hope especially in this weather people choose the program over this,” he added.READ MORE: UPDATE: Alameda County Supes Vote To Help Finance Oakland A's Stadium
The city offered people the option of going to a Tuff Shed, community housing or an emergency shelter. City workers offered rides to those locations and gave people the option to store their items for up to 90 days, if they didn’t want to see their belongings thrown away.
A lot of people did take the option of moving into a Tuff Shed, including Andrew Flory, though he refused one at first.
“A lot of people turned it down,” Flory said. “The Tuff Sheds, to be honest with you, some of our cells in the county jail are better,” he added.
One neighbor named Bob, who didn’t want to reveal his last name, said he was “relieved” to see this happening.
“Nobody walks their dogs here, kids don’t come to play here anymore, finally we’re getting our park back,” he said.
Advocates for the homeless say moving people in inclement weather is “inhumane.”
“Valentine’s Day, in the freezing rain … when I think of what today is supposed to mean, this isn’t what love is,” Nicole Huguenin said.MORE NEWS: Bay Area Health Experts Weigh In After FDA Advisers Back Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine For Kids 5 To 11
The city will continue clearing the remaining encampments on Lake Merritt Friday.