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City To Take Action On Homeless Encampments

A wide-open gate provides access to the Jean Sweeney Open Space park area, August 2016. (File photo.)

A wide-open gate provides access to the Jean Sweeney Open Space park area, August 2016. (File photo.)

The City of Alameda is launching a multi-pronged response to encampments in the Belt Line Railway property and the homelessness issue in general.

Debate over the encampments at the Belt Line property has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks with nearby residents taking to social media and blaming the campers for break-ins and other crime, and the impending start of construction to turn the 22-acre property into Jean Sweeney Open Space Park.

In late August, Action Alameda News visited the property and spoke with people camping there, none of whom were willing to speak on the record.

However one camper asked for someone “outside the fence” to donate a dumpster so that he and others might clean-up their camps and remove some of the trash that has accumulated.

Action Alameda News has identified a potential donor and is engaged with city officials regarding access to the site and placement of the dumpster.

Yesterday, the City of Alameda announced a broad response plan on the matter:

1) Enter into an agreement with Operation Dignity, a nonprofit based in Oakland and Alameda, to provide an initial assessment of homeless people living in Alameda. This will be accomplished over six weeks with a mobile outreach team that will engage with homeless individuals to do a comprehensive survey of their basic needs, housing history, mental health and substance abuse issues, and other background information.

2) Bring this action plan to Social Services and Human Relations Board (SSHRB) on September 22 to receive and incorporate their feedback and suggestions.

3) In mid-October, present to city council for approval a one-year agreement with Operation Dignity to provide on-site case management services to homeless individuals in an effort to get people housed and accessing available services when possible.

4) Notices were posted August 19 throughout the park to inform people that construction is coming and the general timeframe.

5) The Alameda Police Department (APD) will post the legally required 30-day eviction notices once the exact timeframe for the first construction phase of Sweeney Park is confirmed, anticipated to be in November/December. When construction begins, a temporary fence will be erected around the construction zone. APD will store any remaining personal belongings of occupants of the encampment as required by law.

6) Operation Dignity will continue to provide case management for any homeless people remaining in the park and throughout the city.

7) On November 1, the City will apply for a StopWaste state grant for funding to clean up hazardous materials from abandoned encampments.

8) Mid- to long-term options being considered for the remaining undeveloped areas of the park include:

a. Install temporary solar lighting throughout undeveloped areas.

b. Use a goat abatement service to clear brush and ensure better visibility into the area.

c. Make a determination on whether to keep the undeveloped areas open to the public or remain fenced.

9) Throughout this process the police department will respond to any issue that requires immediate attention.

The city has scheduled a neighborhood meeting to discuss the plan on Tuesday, September 27th at 6:30 p.m. at the Mastick Senior Center.

Officials will provide a collection bin for socks and toiletries.

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