Rising homeless rates across the state are hitting Oakland harder than any other Bay Area city.
San Francisco saw a troubling increase of 17 percent in its homeless population over the last two years — 30 percent if you use the same counting criteria as we did in 2017 — and similarly, most cities across the Bay Area also saw double-digit surges. But this week we discovered that Oakland is experiencing the most severe and notable uptick in unhoused people on the streets. The Bay Area News Group reports that Oakland saw a 47 percent increase in homelessness since this time in 2017. According to a count conducted in January, there are 4,071 unhoused people in Oakland; as opposed to 2,761 two years ago.
While San Francisco’s homeless population (8,011) is nearly double that of Oakland’s, San Francisco is a much more populous city. The Chronicle explains that Oakland now has the highest per capita homeless rate, at 940 per 100,000 people.
“Oakland’s increase in homelessness is no surprise to anyone who is working on this problem of ending unacceptable levels of human suffering on our streets every day,” Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf told reporters Tuesday, per SF Bay. “This number is reflective of similar increases throughout Alameda County.”
Schaaf does have a point that it’s not just on Oakland problem, and indeed spreads countywide. Homeless counts across the county show a 43 percent increase across all of Alameda County (adjacent also Contra Costa County saw a 43 percent increase over that period.)
And it’s true when Schaaf claims Oakland is experimenting with more different solutions than other Bay Area cities. The city now has nearly half a dozen “community cabin” sites that essentially provide one-room sheds, and the Chronicle reported that last month Oakland opened its first safe park-live area for RV and vehicle dwellers.
Advocates say the vehicle dwelling is a symptom of the changing face of homelessness — that people without homes have more resources, and are higher up the socioeconomic ladder that people who’ve previously found themselves homeless. In fact, vehicle dwellers (45%) now outnumber tent dwellers (34%) in Alameda County.
Image: Caniel Arauz via Flickr