What was once northern California’s largest homeless encampment at Wood Street in Oakland now has a collection of tiny homes to house 100 people. But on the flip side, the clearing of the encampment continues.
West Oakland’s Wood Street encampment has been a years-long headache for the city of Oakland, largely because of the number of large fires that have broken out there, which endanger the residents as well as drivers on the highway overpasses above it. The encampment’s population hit 300 over the summer of 2022, when the city decided they’d had enough and started clearing it. But strong-arm tactics and a lack of adequate notice — as well as a lack of other shelter — brought a lawsuit where a judge delayed clearing the encampment in July. Yet just last week, the courts ruled the city can resume clearing the encampment, as the city is deemed in compliance with a rule that they offer alternative shelter.
And some of that alternative shelter is right there on the Wood Street-adjacent premises. The Chronicle reports, the city of Oakland has opened a tiny cabin village at the site, with accommodations for up to 100 people. You see a picture of these tiny cabins at the site above, and per the Chronicle, priority to live there will be given to people still staying at the encampment.
The cabin project is not entirely finished yet. Per a City of Oakland press release, “When fully complete, the cabin shelter program will consist of 70 cabins for individuals, 12 double cabins for couples (housing 24 people total), and six accessible cabins for persons with disabilities.”
The release adds that “The site includes restroom, shower, and laundry facilities, electricity, a community kitchen and eating space, limited secured storage for personal belongings, security, parking, and two meals per day. Each cabin includes a secure, locked door and windows, a wall-mounted heater, an overhead light and at least two electrical outlets.”
The city will also offer “housing navigation, job placement support, case management, counseling, and other services” to residents.
The Chronicle estimates that around 70 people are still staying at the remaining portion of the Wood Street encampment, and they'll have move-in priority for the cabins. But the cabins are not all yet complete, and while the city describes the village as “opened,” it’s unclear if anyone has moved in yet.
The City of Oakland insists they will ultimately build a 170-unit affordable housing complex at the site, and they needed to clear the encampment to secure the state and federal funding for it.
This is the third tiny house village for the homeless in Oakland, and these are viewed as a good transitional step toward more permanent housing, as the process of getting individuals to accept services and/or to secure permanent housing often takes time. But, these complexes are not without their own troubles. A fire broke out last March at one next to Lake Merritt last March, spurring concerns over the materials used on the structures.
Image: City of Oakland