Some Bay Area homeless sweeps continue, despite coronavirus moratorium

Homeless residents living in tents along Cupertino’s Wolfe
Road thought they were safe. Following federal health guidelines
adopted around the Bay Area, city officials
promised not to force them to move
until the coronavirus
pandemic abated.

But this month, with county and state-wide shelter-in-place
rules still in effect, Cupertino officials changed their minds.
They plan to dismantle the camps in the next few weeks.

And they’re not the only ones. Many Bay Area cities, including
San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco, pledged not to remove or
“sweep” homeless camps for the duration of the pandemic, to
limit the spread of COVID-19. But despite those assurances, some
sweeps have been reported in all three cities as officials look at
camps they say have become too dangerous for homeless residents.
Now activists worry those displaced residents face a greater risk
of contracting the virus.

“Sweeping people at all during the pandemic shows a complete
lack of humanity toward the people, and a complete ignorance of the
CDC recommendations regarding unhoused people and the virus,”
said Shaunn Cartwright, an advocate and volunteer outreach worker
based in Santa Clara County.

If housing is not available, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention
encourage cities to leave encampments where they are
�—
clearing them can cause people to disperse throughout the
community, break connections with their service providers and
potentially spread COVID-19.

But city officials also cite health concerns in their decisions
to remove certain encampments they’ve deemed hazardous. And they
say they offer services to residents displaced by encampment
closures. But activists worry that’s not enough. Even with new
shelters, interim housing sites and hotel rooms set aside for
homeless residents during the pandemic, those options can’t
accommodate everyone.

In San Jose, Caltrans received special approval from Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s office and the state’s Office of Emergency Services to
remove an encampment at Story Road and U.S. 101 this week,
according to city spokesman Jeff Scott. The camp presents a safety
concern because it’s less than five feet from traffic traveling
more than 45 mph, Scott wrote in an email, adding the city will
offer “support services†to anyone displaced.

The encampments in Cupertino present a similar concern.

The camps — three small clusters of tents along busy Wolfe
Road at the on and offramps to Interstate 280 — are just feet
away from cars whizzing past. Last month, a man who city spokesman
Brian Babcock described as a visitor to the encampments was

killed in a hit-and-run collision
.

“I just hope that people know that what I’m trying to do is
difficult and that we’re trying to do it with as much compassion
for everybody as possible,†said City Manager Deborah Feng.
“We’re doing our best in these trying times.â€

And there’s another factor at play: Some of the tents sit at
the edge of the Vallco construction site, and workers need access
to the area so they can start setting up utilities for the
multibillion-dollar project, according to the city. The
development
will replace the defunct Vallco Shopping Mall with
2,402 apartments, 400,000 square feet of retail and 1.8 million
square feet of office space.

In Oakland, activists have reported several encampments being
swept during the shelter-in-place, including one on B Street in
East Oakland.

“While things have definitely diminished, they’re still
actually happening,†said Dayton Andrews, an organizer with the
United Front Against Displacement.

Last month, signs appeared at an encampment at 38th Street and
Manila Avenue ordering residents to vacate, Andrews said. In the
end, after sending residents into a panic, city workers ended up
doing a trash cleanup, consolidating the camp from two blocks down
to one, and moving it to the other side of the street.

“In the time of social distancing, people were crammed closer
and closer together,†Andrews said.

A representative for the city did not answer emailed questions
about encampment closures.

In Cupertino, Santa Clara County is working with the city to
offer temporary shelter — or housing, if possible — to
residents in the Wolfe Road camps, according to Deputy County
Executive Ky Le. Specific details have not been finalized. There
are no homeless shelters or transitional housing programs in
Cupertino.

But with affordable and transitional housing scarce throughout
the county, Josh Selo, executive director of West Valley Community
Services, worries where displaced residents will go.

“I’m hopeful that the work that the city and the county are
doing will lead to a safe, housed option for these folks, so
we’re not just pushing the problem somewhere else in the
county,†he said.

The city also is working with Caltrans, as the majority of the
tents are on Caltrans land. A removal date is tentatively set for
Sept. 21.

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 That date is looming over Wolfe Road encampment residents like
39-year-old Yesenia Torres, who has been homeless about eight
months. She worked driving shuttle buses for Google until she lost
her license recently because her epileptic seizures made it unsafe
for her to drive.

If someone offers Torres housing when they dismantle her camp,
she’ll jump at the chance. But she’s not convinced that will
happen.

She says the uncertainty of where she’ll live next month is
making her medical condition worse. She worries she’ll start
experiencing stress-induced blackouts.

“It’s not a good feeling at all,†Torres said.

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Some Bay Area homeless sweeps continue, despite coronavirus
moratorium