Many areas of Oakland with the highest cases of COVID-19 are also areas known to experience high rates of illegal dumping. Unhoused individuals face unique risks of contracting the virus when exposed to illegally dumped materials at or near encampments.
Through a $175,000 CARES Act grant from Oakland Public Works (OPW), the Beautification Council (BC) - an Oakland not-for-profit organization - implemented Operation COVID-19 Mitigation to provide micro-cleaning and sanitization to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the encampments identified by OPW for maintenance and sanitation service.
BC crews, consisting of stipend unsheltered residents from the encampments themselves, performed the micro-cleaning and sanitization as a complement to OPW's Homeless Encampment Enhanced Garbage Service.
Upon OPW Enhanced Garbage Service crew removing the bulk of the waste material at an encampment's garbage pick-up site, BC crews micro-cleaned the area by removing smaller pieces of debris left behind (i.e. face masks, rubber gloves, needles, diapers, etc.), then sanitized and disinfected the area using hydrogen peroxide, an EPA and CDC-approved disinfectant for COVID-19.
Staff included a Hazmat and Safety Subject Matter Expert, a Homeless Communications Working Liaison, Work Coordinator/Project Manager, and an Operations Manager along with a stipend labor force of hard-to-employ and unhoused Oakland residents. A Life Skills Coach was later added to provide life skills support to the stipend participants.
In all, the grant provided stipends to 97 unhoused residents who performed clean-ups and sanitization at 52 encampment locations.