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Homelessness Surges in Oakland, Earning the Nickname ‘Land of Milk and Fentanyl,’ Says Activist

Oakland, California, has witnessed an alarming increase in its homeless population over the past six years, nearly doubling due to relaxed drug enforcement priorities and widespread theft, according to a local activist.

Credit: Unlimphotos

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The city has become synonymous with drug activity and has earned the moniker “Land of Milk and Fentanyl,” attracting people from outside the area seeking easy access to drugs and an environment conducive to their illicit activities.

Seneca Scott, founder of Neighbors Together Oakland, expressed concern about the influx of so-called “drug tourists” contributing to the deteriorating living conditions.

“Fentanyl Island,” a stretch of land between 7th St. and Brush St. in West Oakland, has become notorious for its open-air drug market and numerous abandoned vehicles.

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Scott emphasized that the absence of law enforcement has allowed the drug trade and theft to flourish without consequence.

According to city data, the homeless population in Oakland surged by more than double from 2015 to 2022, reaching over 5,000 individuals.

Alameda County, which includes Oakland, also experienced a similar increase, with homelessness reaching 9,700 individuals last year.

This homelessness crisis has had detrimental effects on property values, leading to plummeting real estate prices alongside other government policies like eviction moratoriums.

The presence of RVs lining the streets and fires breaking out in homeless encampments have further compounded the problem.

Scott attributes a significant portion of the crisis to open-air drug markets and the leniency towards RV parking, which has created unbearable living conditions for residents.

A survey of local residents revealed that homelessness is perceived as the most pressing issue in Oakland, with 36% of respondents indicating it should be the top priority for the 2023-2024 budget.

Furthermore, 63% of those surveyed disapproved of the city government’s performance.

The situation has garnered criticism from California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office, which deemed the city’s handling of encampments “simply unacceptable.”

Despite Oakland’s appealing weather and skilled workforce, the escalating homelessness crisis has raised concerns about the city’s ability to maintain a thriving business community.

Activist Scott stated that without significant policy changes, potential investors are unlikely to be drawn to the area while neo-progressive policies continue to be in place.

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