#AmericansLoveDrugs: #Heroin has become #Oakland’s favorite pastime

Oakland leaders had ambitious goals three months ago when they sought to bring basic services and help to a squalid, needle-strewn homeless camp at 35th and Magnolia streets.

The idea, they said, was to offer a humane alternative to sending in cleanup crews and clearing the 39 homeless people out. Instead, city employees hosed off the sidewalks, added portable toilets and trash bins, and provided counselors to help get the campers into housing. They installed concrete barricades to prevent the camp from growing and set a March 31 deadline to get everyone housed.

Halfway through the effort, officials are finding out just how difficult it is to follow through with their bighearted intentions. More homeless people have moved into the camp, replacing those who left. Officials have no clear plan for how to shut down the camp by March 31.

Perhaps the most entrenched problem facing the city is that many of the homeless people at 35th and Magnolia streets are addicted to heroin. No city official — from the Police Department to the city administrator’s office — would comment on what the city is doing, if anything, to crack down on drug trafficking, which area residents say moved from the camp itself to areas near their homes after the city installed the barricades.

Officials were caught off guard by the extent of heroin use in the sanctioned homeless camp, and outreach workers struggled to keep needles and syringes from piling up in the trash bins and bathrooms.

Oakland’s contracted garbage hauler, Waste Management, stopped serving the camp in December, saying the used syringes pose a danger to workers. The city’s Public Works Department now picks up the trash.

Read the whole story in the San Francisco Chronicle


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