Oak Street Tuff Shed Site Opens, As City Clears Webster Street Unhoused Community

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An unhoused resident at Webster and 5th Streets (far left) helps Oakland Department of Public Works workers to store some of her belongings and destroy others to make room for her move into a tuff shed at 598 Oak Street. Photo by Zack Haber.

The City of Oakland on Wednesday evicted a group of seven unhoused people who lived along Webster Street and in between 5th and 6th streets, then offered them temporary living space through the city’s tuff shed program, or “Community Cabins,” that recently opened nearby at 598 Oak Street.

“They told us we have five days to vacate the premises,” said Saint, a 55-year-old lifelong Oakland resident who is unhoused and lived at Webster Street.

“It’s stressful to come and tell us we have five days. We’ve been here three years,” said Saint.

When the Oakland Post interviewed Saint three days before the eviction, he said he did not think there would be space for him to move into a tuff shed and was concerned where he would go.

“Whatever way the wind blows, that’s which way I’m gonna go,” he said. “I gotta move my stuff somewhere or they’re going to throw it away.”

On the day of the eviction, other residents reported Saint had moved into a tuff shed, and representatives from the City of Oakland confirmed that there was enough space for all seven people who had been forced to move. This would be Saint’s second time living in a tuff shed as he was asked to leave a previous tuff shed site when he had finished the six-month program last year.

Unhoused residents report that other cabin community sites have offered breakfast and dinner, weekly showers, and space in a 10X12 foot living structure. Two residents live in each structure. The City of Oakland claims the sites also help residents with housing navigation. But some unhoused residents have been critical of those services and say the navigators are unhelpful and undertrained.

“The navigators didn’t really pay attention to us,” said Mouangjoi Tracylee Saelee who lived in a Tuff Shed at 1449 Miller Ave. after being evicted from 12th Street and 23rd Ave, where she had lived in an unhoused community called Housing and Dignity Village in December 2018.

“You cannot take someone off the street or somebody out of prison, hand them a book, and expect them to know everything. You have to go to school for this,” said Saelee.

In a report from October 2018 laying out plans for the 598 Oak St., Assistant City Administrator Joe DeVries wrote, “This site would allow the city to offer shelter to several smaller encampments in the Jack London Square and Chinatown areas…where encampments have impacted youth programming.”

This area is where Webster street is located.

Unhoused people and advocates are noting that the city clears unhoused communities soon after city-run programs to temporarily shelter homeless are opened. Housing and Dignity Village was evicted not long after the nearby Miller Avenue tuff shed site opened, and city representatives encouraged the village’s members to move into that site.

The city also cleared some unhoused communities along Lake Merritt in mid-February 2019, shortly after a Lake Merritt tuff shed site was opened. When the city opened a safe parking site near the Coliseum BART station in the summer of 2019 that serves around 30 vehicles, they also enforced a no-parking zone around 85th and Edes avenues, a location where people had used to live in their vehicles.

The city also tagged over 10 vehicles for towing and eviction at that location.

During the eviction at Webster and 5th streets on Feb. 5, at least one resident chose not to move into a tuff shed but instead to move to another nearby street that an Oakland Police officer said would be evicted in a week.

Another resident said he’d move into the tuff shed since it was his best option but was upset and cursing.

“It’s not even big enough for two people,” he said, choosing not to share his name.

A resident named Anthony, who said he had lived near Webster and 5th streets for six years, was set to move into the tuff shed with his partner and seemed more at peace with the option.

“It’s a better place than this I believe,” he said.

 

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