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Business owners, neighbors want action as homeless camp reappears


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    OAKLAND, California (KPIX ) — A large homeless encampment next to the East Oakland Home Depot that was cleared out a year ago is now packed once again with makeshift dwellings. Neighbors are complaining of the uptick in crime and businesses are trying to move out.

A police officer and neighbors said the homeless broke down a fence and took over the large lot next to the High Street Home Depot about three months ago. Now, the privately owned lot is packed with RV’s, cars, and tents.

Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo said a fast food restaurant was supposed to open at the site, but had backed up due to the ongoing homeless problem. And the problem is not just taking place within the lot.

The homeless have parked their vehicles on several streets and blocked off sidewalks with trash. Neighbors and business owners said they’re fed up and they feel helpless.

“We have wanted to move for a while because we don’t feel supported (by the city),” said Jennifer Engle. “And we had our opportunity this summer, but when COVID stuck, that was taken away.”

Jennifer and Matthew Engle own Bay Island Gymnastics on Alameda Ave., across from the large illegal homeless encampment. They said it’s become a safety issue with some homeless people harassing staff and students.

“(A homeless woman) threatened to end my mom’s life,” said Kaili Engle, a gymnast at the facility and daughter of Jennifer. “It still scares me.”

“(The homeless have) thrown things at my employees. We’ve had people completely exposed themselves to my employees,” said Jennifer Engle.

A manager at the nearby car wash told KPIX 5 a homeless woman tried to stab him with a knife and attacked other workers. Neighbors also said they’re seeing a rise in burglaries as well.

“Home Depot has once again challenged us, (saying) if we don’t clear this, they’re leaving Oakland,” said Gallo, who represents the area.

The councilman said he too is frustrated with the lack of enforcement of basic parking laws. He said he’s repeatedly asked the city administrator to solve the problem, yet there had been no action and the problem keeps getting worse.

“There’s no excuse. It comes to incompetence,” Gallo said.

Public works cleaned up the site and moved the homeless to a city-run RV lot in December of 2019. But neighbors said the problem is now bigger than before.

“(We’re asking) the city to do the right thing and try to help these people. In helping these people, in return, it’ll help the businesses,” said Jennifer Engle.

“We need the city to step up. I mean we know this is a crisis,” said Matthew Engle.

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