‘Fentanyl Island’ in middle of one of most expensive areas to live in the world

An area in one of the most expensive and desirable places on earth has been dubbed “Fentanyl Island”.

The city council in Oakland, US, has recently been shutting down more and more of the homeless encampments spreading out around the California city, which have risen to become a battleground between the opposite ends of the political spectrum. Right-wing outlets such as Fox News have branded parts of the liberal city as “Fentanyl Island,” blaming progressive policies for mass drug abuse and homelessness.

In August, the outlet released a news segment hosted by commentator Jesse Watters, where he discussed the undefined "Island". “Are you planning a last-minute summer vacation?" he said. "Have you considered going to Fentanyl Island? This drug-infested oasis has some of the best views of burning RVs and high piles of rusty junk and scrap metal.”

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He added: “Why take a nap in a cabana when you can erect a tent and snooze on the sidewalk? Need to use the restroom? At Fentanyl Island, the island is your porta potty. That’s the Bay Area for you, where living situations are so abysmal that you expect to be assaulted.”

As images of wrecked cars and dragged-down fences passed on screen, he continued: “No that’s not [Syrian city] Aleppo – that’s Oakland. Home to Fentanyl Island.”

He noted that the city, which is part of the extremely wealthy Bay Area and home to some of the richest people in the country, has the highest level of homelessness in the US with “around 10,000 homeless calling Oakland home.”

But on the other side of the political divide the view on the matter is very different with even the size of the city’s homelessness population said to be 5,000 fewer by the Guardian. While homeless settlements exist throughout the city, the closure of a particularly large one earlier this year became major news worldwide.

The Wood Street encampment on the west side of the city was, in the eyes of many, not a scourge on the area but a refuge for those who had little. The community, which was closed down by city officials in May this year, had been fitted out with a kitchen, electricity, a wood oven, and a health clinic. For the people who lived there it was home, a place that had taken many in when they had nowhere else to go.

Speaking to the New York Times, now-evicted resident John Janosko, 54, said from his city-provided cabin: “It’s not my home… My home was down the street.”

People began moving into Wood Street nearly a decade ago, and according to the testimonies of people who lived there, it was finally a place to call home.

Speaking at a news conference, LaMonté Ford, 50, said: “I came here to kill myself, but these people beside me saved my life. This space gave me a new lease on life.”

Speaking about the demolition of the camp, he said: “It’s like a tornado, it’s like my world has just been ripped off the ground, thrown in the air and exploded into a thousand pieces.”

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