California: Fire exposes conditions at Oakland homeless encampment


California: Fire exposes conditions at Oakland homeless encampment

Adam Mclean and Evan Blake

15 September 2018

A fire broke out at an Oakland, California homeless encampment early Tuesday morning, destroying the tents of about half of the 80 people who lived there. Luckily no one was killed in the blaze, despite reports of the fire department taking upwards of 15 minutes to arrive.

Homelessness is a chronic and widespread social problem in the United States, with California being the worst hit state, due primarily to extremely high real estate prices. According to the department of Housing and Urban Development, there are 130,000 homeless in the state. The situation in Oakland can be seen as a particularly acute example of conditions that are growing nationally.

The WSWS spoke this week with residents of the Oakland encampment about the fire and the conditions in the encampment.

Needa Bee, an activist with The Village, a homeless advocacy group that helps maintain encampments, spoke about how the encampment was created by the city. “This should have never happened in the first place. The people here were brought here by the city of Oakland. This overcrowding, it leads to the conditions for a fire of this magnitude to happen. The city should have left people alone, or given them permanent housing, not herded them over here.

“The mayor of Oakland is spending 3 million dollars to house 40 people in 27 tuff sheds. She’s picking the biggest encampments and doing that—the one on Bush street with 110 people, the one over on Northgate that was 120 people, right now they’re going build a third tuff shed, they’re evicting the people today. There’s 150 people that live around Lake Merritt, but they’re only going to house 40 of them. But they’re using this…

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