City of Oakland Evicts Unhoused Black Men from West Oakland Parks

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Unhoused residents Kelly Barnes (far right), Glenn (second from right), Poo (center), who live in the small Union Plaza and Fitzgerald Parks in West Oakland, stand with Clay (far left), an unhoused resident who lives nearby. Photo by Zack Haber

On March 10, the City of Oakland evicted and confiscated the belongings of approximately two dozen unhoused Black men who had set up tents in Union Plaza and Fitzgerald Parks, which sit at 34th and Peralta Streets in West Oakland.

“This makes me feel like I don’t belong,” said Glenn, a 50-year-old lifelong Oakland resident who grew up about five blocks away from the parks. Glenn says police had instructed him and others to move to the parks after evicting them from a nearby underpass a month and a half before.

“The City moves you to a location and then just like that they tell you to move again,” said 46-year-old unhoused resident Kelly Barnes.

The unhoused residents say that most of them are from the neighborhood and that police asked them to leave not only the parks but the entire nearby area where their family and social connections are. Police handed them a map with a section marked off where encampments are no longer allowed.

The map shows a redline forming a box that stretches a mile and a half in perimeter between Hollis and 32nd Streets, San Pablo Ave, and the 580 Freeway.

Residents claim when they asked where they could go, they weren’t offered any shelter but police officers suggested moving to Wood Street, an area where unhoused Oakland residents have congregated in increasing numbers for the last 8 years. The residents claim they don’t want to move there.

“I don’t know nobody down on Wood Street,” said Poo, a 53-year-old unhoused resident. Poo claims Wood Street is less clean than where’s he’s staying and that he’s used to his area and feels safer there.

Residents say police handed them this map, marking off an area that stretches between Hollis and 32nd Streets, San Pablo Ave, and the 580 Freeway. They claim police told them it represented a no encampment zone inside which they could no longer stay.

The unhoused residents felt they weren’t informed in enough time to find a new place to stay.

While there was flyer attached to a pole next to the park dated Friday, March 6, residents claim they didn’t know they had to leave until police talked to them on Monday evening — giving them less than 24 hours notice before their eviction. “Flyers had been torn down,” said Barnes.

The unhoused residents are upset that their belongings were confiscated and they see no route to getting them back. Most of them lost their tents and were left totally without shelter. The weather was rainy the following weekend and temperatures reached the low 40s.

The Oakland Post emailed both The Oakland Police Department and The City of Oakland’s media relations to ask where and how the unhoused residents could reclaim their property, as well as when The City or police informed them of the eviction.  The Oakland Post will update the online version of this story when and if a response is received.

At the time this story was sent to the press, some residents remain at the Union Plaza and Fitzgerald Parks with a few tents, but most unhoused residents have been sleeping outdoors.

“Sitting at this bench right here, talking and nodding out. That’s our night. That’s what we go through, and it’s just not right,” said Barnes.

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