Residents of a large Oakland homeless encampment being targeted with eviction used fencing materials and debris to prevent authorities from clearing the property, city officials said this week.

Advocates for the residents of the Wood Street homeless encampment blocked police and city workers from entering the camp Wednesday, some pressing their bodies against the fence while others dismantled and climbed on top of and underneath city equipment to stop the work near Wood and 20th streets. Two people were arrested.

Residents of the camp said they have had a thriving community and think the city should provide resources so the community can continue. Camp residents this week said they were not happy with the shelter the city was offering to them.

“We understand this transition may be difficult for Wood Street encampment residents.”

LaTonda Simmons, acting homelessness administrator

City officials said Thursday morning that four more people accepted offers for shelter, which involves living in cabins nearby.

“We understand this transition may be difficult for Wood Street encampment residents,” said LaTonda Simmons, assistant city administrator and acting homelessness administrator, in a statement.

Simmons said the city is committed to offering housing and shelter, services and programs to each resident of the camp. City staff will also help camp residents decide which belongings they want to bring to the cabin and what will be stored.

Protecting their belongings

Residents and advocates said Wednesday that only one or two suitcases of belongings could go with them to a cabin and the rest would be thrown away.

That was one reason some residents did not want to accept the city’s offer to relocate to a cabin.

But, Oakland spokesperson Jean Walsh said only trash and debris at the encampment has been removed.

Camp residents also said they don’t get a key to the cabin or to the gate to the cabin community, another reason they don’t want to relocate to the recently opened community.

City officials said they have enough shelter for all residents of the encampment. Thirty-one people so far have accepted an offer to stay in a cabin.

Early Wednesday afternoon, city crews had stopped trying to close the camp following the standoff. City officials said workers stopped for safety reasons.

Workers were allegedly threatened by advocates or camp residents, according to the city.

The work to close the camp was authorized by a judge. The camp was part of a larger encampment of hundreds of people. The portion on Caltrans land was closed last year.

Closing of the latest part of the encampment will allow for the construction of a 170-unit permanently affordable residential project on the encampment land.

Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.