Berkeley moves towards a consensus homeless plan

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City Council appears to be moving towards a consensus-based, public process to generate an action plan on homelessness. Photo: Emilie Raguso

After an acrimonious battle last year over Measure S, which sought to prohibit sitting on commercial sidewalks, Berkeley’s City Council pointed the way on Tuesday night to a more consensual approach to homelessness.

Councilman Jesse Arreguín’s Compassionate Sidewalks plan calls for a working group on homelessness to “conduct a series of focused workshops and discussions on a wide range of issues related to homelessness and to develop an action plan with policy, program, and funding recommendations around ending homelessness.” (Arreguín wrote about his proposal in a Berkeleyside op-ed on Monday.)

His proposal was to convene the working group following the scheduled work session of the City Council on homelessness on April 2. At the City Council meeting this week, the council unanimously agreed that Arreguín would propose a more detailed process which would be brought to a vote at the April 2 council meeting, following the work session.

In both public comment and council discussion, Arreguín’s plan was seen as a positive step in tackling a complex issue for Berkeley.

Jesse Arreguín: budget reflects "our priorities as a community"

Jesse Arreguín: “We’re committed to looking at this further”

“I’m confident that if we take a different approach, an approach where we concentrate on consensus building and avoid divisiveness, we can come up with a workable plan,” said Bob Offer-Westort, who was coordinator of the No on S campaign last year.

“I’m really looking forward to a process that really knocks down the walls of progressive versus conservative on the council and in our community,” said Sally Hyman Hindman, director of Youth Spirit Artworks.

Councilmember Linda Maio said it was important to recognize how much progress Berkeley had made in dealing with homelessness over the years.

“We were a small community who came together, to pull together as best we could. We get better all the time,” she said.  ”I don’t want to paint this picture as though we have failed. This is the next step. I really think it’s way overdue.”

Council members Kriss Worthington and Laurie Capitelli, who were on opposite sides of the Measure S debate last year, both said it was important to move on from past battles and work in a non-divisive manner.

“I don’t consider those who opposed Measure S demons and I don’t consider myself a demon,” Capitelli said.

Arreguín agreed that he would work with Mayor Tom Bates to craft a proposal for the April 2 council meeting. By that time, city staff could provide some indication of the costs of an extended working group process.

“I get the sense from the entire council that we’re committed to looking at this issue further,” Arreguín said.

Related:
Op-ed: After Measure S failure, it’s time to act on homelessness [01.24.13]
Measure S: will it help or hurt the homeless? [10.31.12]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • PragmaticProgressive

    Yes, there is that, of course. But even the POTUS has done one.

  • mathmajor

    N of 1 = no information here.

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    Hey, gentle readers. The former of those things is true—not a lie (The Sharkey’s consistent confusion on this matter is that he thinks—probably correctly—that the law would not have been enforced as written, which highlights the problem of selective enforcement)—& the latter isn’t something we ever said. Take care, y’all, & take care, The Sharkey!

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    Actually, it lost in six Berkeley districts: all but Districts 5 & 6. If you nix the precincts with the greatest numbers of students, S still would have lost.

  • Charles_Siegel

    You are wrong.

    Your campaign literature said that S would make it illegal for children to have lemonade stands in front of their homes. This is true for the tiny percent of children who live in business districts, but not for the overwhelming majority of children.

    You made the general statement that S would make it illegal for children to have lemonade stands in front of their homes, which is untrue.

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    Hi Charles. I don’t think that’s correct. I’m looking at the lit. It states what the law does (makes it a crime to sit on the sidewalk), & then lists off a bunch of things which would, as a consequence, be crimes. There are quite a lot of residences that are in those areas, though you’re right that they’re not the majority. I can understand the confused reading of the lit that you & The Sharkey claim. But I don’t think the lit’s dishonest. &, frankly, I don’t think that your outrage is honest.

    What it says is true, & it was not intended to mislead. The pro side, on the other hand, sent out four mailers, one of which said that Measure S would help homeless people into services, & never mentioned what the law actually did: make it a crime to sit down on sidewalks in commercial zones during daytime hours. Add to this the distribution at polling locations of Berkeley Democratic Club voter guides that claimed (incorrectly) that the Democratic Party supported Measure S, & I’m simply not impressed with the cries of ‘Lies! Lies!’ Especially when those claims include things we didn’t even say.

    If lies won campaigns, S would have passed.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I am thinking of one piece of literature that someone handed me at downtown BART a day or two before the election, which clearly implied that children generally would not be able to set up lemonade stands. I don’t know if this was official campaign literature or a private effort.

    You say, “There are quite a lot of residences that are in those areas.” But you don’t mention that very few children live in those residences.

    The only lemonade stands I have ever seen in Berkeley have been in residential neighborhoods.

    Have you ever in your life seen a lemonade stand that a child ran in front of his or her residence on a business street in Berkeley? If you have, then I will believe that you were honestly concerned that this law would have prevented some child from creating a lemonade stand.

    Incidentally, I did not vote on measure S, neither for nor against. I don’t know if you noticed my comments at the time explaining why I could not vote either way.

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    What you’re describing does not match any literature that I have seen, but I would believe this as a mildly misremembered version of our official printed campaign literature: In it, we mentioned lemonade stands was in a list of five activities that would have been crimes were Measure S to pass. If this is what you were referring to, the list was correct: I am not, as you claim above, wrong. The list was in the context of a piece that focused on fairness & selective enforcement, in specifically that language. The point was that we should not expect that the law would be enforced fairly or equitably. The list was not intended to deceive people as to the actual expected consequences, but rather to put those into a context of fairness. It does not sound as though you were actually confused by it. I don’t think anyone else was, either.

    I was not concerned that an anti-sit law would be used to shut down lemonade stands. I was concerned, as I’ve said above & elsewhere when correcting The Sharkey’s mistakes concerning claims he alleges that the No on S campaign made, that an anti-sit law would be used discriminatorily. In the context of this argument, your concern about my concern about the law being used against people running lemonade stands doesn’t make sense. A better concern, from what you’re describing, is that our campaign didn’t use very good hypothetical counterexamples of enforcement. We did not say that the law would be used against lemonade stands: That doesn’t make any sense for a fairness & selective enforcement argument. We said that they would be illegal. That’s true, & makes sense.

    I saw your comment, yes.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Pure sophistry. You knew exactly what reaction that flyer would provoke and that a lot of voters would not have the time to deconstruct your misleading assertions.

    I guess you felt you couldn’t win by presenting your argument without distorting the facts. And according to your Google+ profile, you don’t even live in Berkeley.

  • Charles_Siegel

    ” one of which said that Measure S would help homeless people into services”

    I see that you are honest about what you are doing, but it is strange that we seem to be speaking different languages.

    For example, I have to agree with the Yes on S campaign that the law would have helped get some people off the street and into services. You focus on the fact that it does not provide services, but the idea is that some people are very service resistant and this law would have motivated them to use services.

    Imagine someone supporting a law banning smoking in workplaces and saying “This law will help people to quit smoking.” Then imagine someone campaigning against the law by saying, “The yes campaign is lying. This law doesn’t provide any services that help people quit smoking.” In reality, the motivation to quit smoking is more important than providing more services. We are helping people when we pass laws that make it more difficult for them to behave in self-destructive ways.

    If you read my comments, you know that I couldn’t vote for this law, because it would have hurt elderly homeless people who have no choice but panhandling. I couldn’t vote against it because I thought it would have helped many young homeless people who can subsist comfortably by sitting on the sidewalk and panhandling and who could use this bit of extra motivation to convince them to make the effort needed to end their homelessness – just as many people needed the extra motivation of anti-smoking laws to give them the extra motivation they needed to quit smoking.

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    Hi, PragmaticProgressive. You don’t have to believe that my intentions are what I say they are, but that kind of misses how campaigns work: Aside from me, our campaign was a fully volunteer effort. I understand skepticism toward a paid campaign manager (though, think about it: If I were in it for the money, is this the kind of issue I’d work for?), but it’s simply not the case that everyone who was involved, who designed, & who distributed the literature was either a liar or a fool. Also, what you’re talking about isn’t actually sophistry: You’re just saying I’m lying, which is a different thing.

    What’s more confusing to me is this notion that this particular phrase was somehow central to the defeat of Measure S. I just don’t think that’s so. I’ve only seen people (mostly The Sharkey over & over) even mention it in Berkeleyside columns. We included it—along with four other things—in a list for the reasons that I stated above. (Yes, yes: I read above that you don’t believe me. It’s still true.) But there was never any moment when our central cabal sat around the great obsidian table in our subterranean lair, rubbing our hands gleefully while one of our sneering Machiavellian strategists suggested that mentioning lemonade stands would win the election for us! Do you actually think it did? Our expectation was that doing a solid ground campaign, talking to people in as much of Berkeley as we could get to, using two core messages (1. A sitting prohibition is bound to be used discriminatorily: that is, in fact, its intent. 2. Sitting prohibitions have never been demonstrated to alleviate homelessness, improve public safety, or bolster local business.) gave us the best chance.

    You are right that I do not live in Berkeley: I haven’t pretended to, & have addressed that issue in a debate of exactly this matter in Berkeleyside comments months ago. I work & study in Berkeley, but live in Oakland. The campaign staff for Yes on S also did not live in Berkeley. (The same is true of most donors to that campaign.) Neither did the paid campaign staff for Bates or McCormick. Worthington’s campaign staff was comprised of Berkeley residents, but they were volunteers. This is a real problem in Berkeley politics across the board, as it leads to greater cynicism & less investment in & accountability to the community by those who are pulling political strings.

    Measure S lost. There are two paths forward: Cynicism or conversation. I’ve joined with others who have asked for conversation. It doesn’t cost anything. No one makes any money off of it. You all can keep on licking the wounds of November & choose distrust, or we can talk.

    I’m done debating our intentions around the lemonade thing for this threat, by the way. I’ll correct any misstatements, but I’ve said what I need to say: What we said was accurate, & none of us intended for it to be misleading. I initially responded simply to correct a misstatement, & I was correct as regards facts. I’m not going to keep on arguing that anyone should believe my intentions. Take care!

  • SLostOnItsMerits

    You knew exactly what reaction that flyer would provoke and that a lot
    of voters would not have the time to deconstruct your misleading
    assertions.

    You have completely made up these supposed masses of voters who were thus confused. You are also still ignoring how the Yes on S campaign, in spite of spending way more money, apparently couldn’t get out a convincing message.

    Face it: S lost. If you want to think about “pragmatic” social policy you had better get realistic and try to understand why S really lost.

    As it is, you and other S supporters sound like cheap excuse makers and whiners The sun was in your eyes, the dog ate your homework, and the other guy just must have cheated because unless something like that is true, the alternative is that S lost because it was a dumb idea.

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    Well, I don’t think we’re speaking different languages: I think we’ve reached an area where we can productively talk about disagreements. I would say that our argument is not similar to an argument against an anti-smoking law. It would make sense, perhaps, if most people did not enjoy smoking, if the only way to not smoke were to use the patch, if you had to use the patch at all times, & if the patch was readily available for anyone who wanted it. Services in Berkeley aren’t like the patch, in that they’re not readily available. We don’t have weeklong daytime drop-in hours at facilities adequate for the number of people on the street, or safe for youth. The youth shelter is only open in the winter time, & it’s usually full all winter long. There is a waitlist for every service with the exception of Options, which is really only appropriate or useful for about 30–40% of the homeless population, & does not, even for that minority, usually address the problem of lack of a place to be. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that service resistance doesn’t exist, but there’s very, very little of it: For the most part, there simply aren’t adequate services. &, I suppose, unlike the patch & smoking, there’s not a direct connection between sitting & the services people need: Smoking is the actual problem; sitting on the sidewalk is, for homeless people, a symptom of the real problem—lack of a home.

    Sorry if I got a bit snippy with you above. Take care.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    The flyer I received in the mail showed a picture of a lemonade stand and scary language about how such stands would be banned.

    But, as Charles and others have pointed out, since those stands are never found in the commercial districts to which Measure S was limited, it was misleading and dishonest. And so you can hardly be surprised that, in the face of these tactics, some of us do not choose to trust you.

    I respect that you are done with this topic, and while I and the other residents of Berkeley will continue to pursue solutions, I hope that you will direct your energies to your own community and its many problems. We’ve had enough of “professional activists” whose incentives are aligned with perpetuating struggles in our community where they themselves have no stake.

    Oakland desperately needs committed citizens. As you may have heard, four people were shot at the last First Fridays event. Maybe you could Occupy that and help take back your own city from the thugs?

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    Hi, PragmaticProgressive. My friend was among those shot (she’s okay); please don’t be snide. I don’t know what you think any of this has to do with Occupy. There wasn’t a single piece of lit that we handed out, mailed, or even any lit from third parties that I’ve seen that had a picture of a lemonade stand on it. I never heard of any mailing against Measure S aside from ours, which had a picture of four people sitting on the sidewalk & some pigeons.

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    Correction: *five* people. I swear I didn’t mean to lie.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I’ve long since thrown it out, so cannot reproduce what I received to show you.

    I was not being snide about your friend or the others who were hurt/killed. I’m entirely serious: Oakland needs its citizens — that’d be you — to take back control from the thugs. A story in the Chron about you described your connection to Occupy, so I figured you and your friends in that group could apply your energies to the city where you live. Oh, and if you had anything to do with the destruction of Civic Center Park in Berkeley by Occupy, please send payment for its restoration to the City. Thanks!

  • Charles_Siegel

    People become homeless for many different reasons. What I am about to say applies only to the young “lifestyle homeless,” like those who sit on the sidewalk near the cafe Med.

    When I pass by, they do seem to be enjoying themselves, kidding around with their homeless friends. I wouldn’t say that they enjoy being homeless, but I expect that most of them find this sort of homelessness more attractive than the obvious alternatives they have. For example, when you are 20 years old and live in an abusive family, sitting on the sidewalk with your friends and panhandling could easily seem like an improvement. But if you get in that habit, you can turn around one day and realize that you are now 40 years old and stuck being homeless for live.

    I think most of the lifestyle homeless do not need services to get their lives together. They need some motivation to change.

    In this way, they are like most smokers, who can give up smoking if they are willing to make the effort. Make it more inconvenient for them to smoke, for example, by banning smoking in the workplace, and they are more likely to make that effort.

    Likewise, if we made it more inconvenient for the lifestyle homeless, they would also be more likely to make the effort they need to change their lives.

    Unfortunately, Measure S would have made life much worse for elderly homeless who need to sit and panhandle to support themselves, as well as for young lifestyle homeless who are healthy and strong enough to change their lives – which is why I couldn’t vote for it.

    But we need to think clearly about the lifestyle homeless and to come up with ways to stop enabling their behavior. They need motivation more than they need services, and we are sapping that motivation.

    Thanks for your reasonable and patient style of discussion.

  • protoprotocols

    Charles, the term “lifestyle homeless” gets kicked around here a
    lot.

    Can you please give us an objective and measurable definition of the term and objective evidence that the alleged demographic is importantly large?

    The way that the term is used in these conversations reminds of the way that people used the term “wefare queen” back during the Reagan presidency. The existence of a plague of “welfare queens” later turned out to be myth but it was a myth used to justify public policy changes to worsen the condition of poor people.

    But we need to think clearly about the lifestyle homeless and to come up with ways to stop enabling their behavior.

    Are you sure that you yourself are doing so? “Lifestyle homeless” appears to be a pseudo-demographic invented by conservatives and accompanied with a “just so” psychological theory, the main thrust of which is to lead a listener to the conclusion that services and entitlements are a bad public policy. It’s in a category similar to blood libel.

  • guest

    Thank-you for this. You summed up what I have been feeling in these conversations much better than I have been able to do. This is definitely a parallel to “welfare queens”.

  • guest

    Ask Tom Bates and the DBA: they are the ones who wanted to put measure S on the ballot.

  • guest

    Well, to be fair, it was Tom Bates and the DBA who pushed for this measure to be on the ballot.
    Many people spoke to the council as to the myriad of reasons why this was a matter for the council to decide,(as I’m sure you recall) but the cry was: “Let democracy decide! Let the people decide!”
    So, here we are.

  • Charles_Siegel

    No, I can’t give an objective evidence that the demographic is large, and asking this is just a way of shutting down discussion. We would need to get funding for large study to come up with this objective evidence.

    I do know that I see young panhandlers sitting on the sidewalk and apparently enjoying themselves whenever I walk on Telegraph Ave. or Shattuck Ave. Seeing so many on the street gives me the idea that there are a lot of them in Berkeley.

    Can you give me objective evidence that their numbers are not large? Until I see that objective evidence from you, I will believe the evidence of my eyes.

    Your mention of blood libel would be offensive, except that you obviously don’t know what the term means. If I claimed that the homeless killed people to use their blood in religious rituals, that would be in a category similar to a blood libel. Look it up on wikipedia.

  • Charles_Siegel

    The difference is that “welfare queens” was used by conservatives who wanted to deny reality, and “lifestyle homeless” is being used on this site by lifelong progressives who want to face reality – and who are very tired of those who let ideology trump reality.

  • armyspy

    Charles, “blood libel” and “lifestyle homeless” are similar in that they are both outrageous tales spread to bogusly demonize a demographic and advocate for a social status in which that group is treated as second class, as sub-human.

    Nobody is “shutting down discussion”. It is not too much to ask that if you are going to proscribe penalizing the “lifestyle homeless” you be able to convincingly justify the term, and the social theory behind it.

  • Charles_Siegel

    You claim that saying people enjoy sitting on the sidewalk “demonizes” them in a “similar” way as saying that people kill children to use their blood in religious rituals.

    And you claim that “penalizing the lifestyle homeless” is “similar” to mass murders of Jews who were accused of blood libel. (You don’t mention that the only penalty anyone has ever mentioned is making them stand up.)

    I can only say that you are very weird. You are one more proof that this issue brings out crazy, irrational arguments.

    Incidentally, you should learn the difference between “prescribe” and “proscribe.”

  • stranger

    You claim that saying people enjoy sitting on the sidewalk “demonizes” them [etc.]

    Not only did I say no such things but nothing I said could be easily mistaken for that. Civil discussion is simply impossible on your terms.

  • AreWeStillArguingAboutThis?

    Hi Charles Siegel, I saw a lemonade stand in a business district run by kids sitting in front of their house in a business district while I was out canvassing for No on S in October. I talked with their parents about how it would have been illegal under Measure S, but how it would never have been enforced against them, and how the parents felt about that kind of selective enforcement. I think the No on S campaign said over and over both what the law actually prohibited, and that it would be selectively enforced. I think one of the things the campaigns disagreed about was whether selective enforcement is unjust. But Yes on S was far from up-front on that point.

  • The Sharkey

    I’m surprised you’re still keeping up the campaign of lies, Bob.
    You must just really like lying as a hobby. Seeing as how Measure S already failed, I can’t see what you’d gain from it.

  • The Sharkey

    I talked with their parents about how it would have been illegal under
    Measure S, but how it would never have been enforced against them…

    Ignoring your probably make believe anecdote, can you prove this statement? Or is this yet another lie from the No on S campaign?

  • The Sharkey

    I got the same flyer. Bob is once again being misleading by pretending he doesn’t know what you’re talking about since your recollection of the image is off.

    The flyer showed a drawn outline of people seated on a photograph of a curb. It contained the words “NO LEMONADE STANDS” which was done in such a way as to imply a city-wide ban, which is a lie.

    If Bob wants to stick to his guns and say that he and his campaign were only purposefully misleading voters instead of lying to them, that’s fine.

  • morningcoffee

    Let’s see: crime report, cute puppies story, urban farming story on Nosh, incessant drumbeat of casual slander by the The Sharkey, op-ed from a prominent public figure….. must be Berkeleyside!

  • The Sharkey

    How odd that you would click and comment on something you claim to dislike, instead of one of the many stories you say you prefer.

    How odd that Bob saying that I’m lying isn’t slander, but me clarifying my statements and providing evidence is.

    ____________________________
    PS: slan·der /ˈslandər/Noun
    The action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.
    (Calling someone a liar and then providing evidence of their lie isn’t slander.)

  • AnthonySanchez

    That, and bandwidth. We’re a two man band and Jesse’s typical days consists of a deluge of emails and phone calls.

    Me, I have no life outside of this, but that’s becoming increasingly less true as I near “mwarriage.”

    When I disappear off here, I’m probably watching Supernatural with the wifey :)

  • AnthonySanchez

    1. Quite simply, that’s unworkable from a bureaucratic standpoint.

    2. See #1.

    3. Tip of the hat.

    4. Thank you, I appreciate that. If you ever get a chance, the finest minds at CoB, besides Jesse, of course, are Christine Daniel and Wozniak -they have minds that I respect greatly.

    5. I’ll get back to you on that. Jesse would have no problem interacting with people. The only issues are bandwidth and, as Sharkey pointed out, risk -Berkeleyside commenting is better, but not by much than sfgate.com. Most people don’t fully read stories and half-think their comments that are generally oriented towards negativity.

    But then again, there are many thoughtful comments. I do like how the Daily Cal linked commenting to Facebook accounts. The anonymous, negative commenting disappeared over night because one now has to attach a face to their words.

  • The Sharkey

    Hey, I found a copy of the flyer when I was going through some papers to throw out. Here’s exactly what it says on the side with the image of an outline of 5 people sitting on a sidewalk:

    Measure S is a “sit/lie” law
    that would make it a crime to
    sit down on public sidewalks
    between 7a.m. and 10p.m.

    No Sitting in Front of Your Shop
    No Rest for Seniors
    No Busking
    No sitting in Front of Your Apartment
    No Lemonade Stands

    Vote No on Measure S
    Paid for by Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down: A c+Committee Against Measure S, FPPC #1351564

    Since it implies that it would be illegal to sit on all public sidewalks (rather than a small number of business districts) and that these actions would be illegal on all sidewalks throughout the city, this flyer is one big fat lie.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    That’s what I remember. Thanks for finding it.

    Bob appears to be lying then and now. And not just on lemonade stands. No rest for seniors is a huge exaggeration. Downtown has large planter benches where lots of folks stop and sit. They just aren’t on the sidewalk where other people are trying to, uh, walk.

    I have a lot of elderly friends and relations. At no point in my life has any one of them said, whew, I’m tired! Let’s sit and rest on the sidewalk and let others step over us.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Apparently you did lie : see Sharkey’s post after finding your deceptive propaganda.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1077572527 John Panzer

    As a recently appointed member to Berkeley’s Homeless Commission, one meeting during my recent tenure, and a formerly homeless recovering addict, who has used the excellent services available in Berkeley to rebuild my life, I’m disappointed to discover in this article. The Berkeley City Council and perhaps others feel the need to create a new committee to create solutions for homelessness. Obviously, they must feel we, their appointees to the Berkeley Homeless Commission, are not creating needed solutions that address the problems. Sit/lie measures shift problem people to someone else’s doorway. That’s not a solution; that’s a re-election campaign to get votes and financial support from downtown businesses. I chat with the homeless, business people, citizens, friends, visitors, service providers, the Block-by-Block ambassadors, about these issues everyday. Not as a member of the Homeless Commission, just a guy, a concerned citizen, wanting to be of service in return for having received so much. If creating this “Committee,” is about pushing through “THE” solution a few people want, I question that motive. If this committee is being considered to create and implement solutions that we all agree meet an unfulfilled need, I offer my self to be of service. This is why I thought I was joining the Homeless Commission. Thoughts/feedback/concerns very welcome. I’m calling the Homeless Commission Chair, and I’m headed to City Hall right now to ask what the Homeless Commission isn’t doing and what we/I can do. Forgive any spelling/grammar errors, I’m not trying to be perfect, I’m trying to help. I currently study Public Policy with Dr. Reich and others up the hill at the Goldman School, I’m going to ask their input as well to help guide me in what i can be doing to help create solutions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1077572527 John Panzer

    I’ve recently been appointed to the Berkeley Homeless Commission by Councilmember Linda Maio. This is a wonderful way to give back to my community. I’ve rebuilt my life here in Berkeley, literally from the street up, with the many services offered here, including substance abuse treatment, housing, healthcare, help filing for social security disability, California Board of Governor’s fee waiver for school, Lifelong Medical Care, Berkeley Food and Housing project, to name a few.

    In a world of high-tech efficiency, democracy is clunky, its not efficient, and I’ve learned to make sure everyone gets/feels heard. I’m the new guy on the Homeless Commission, with some very caring, committed wonderful Berkeley citizens.

    How do you do the work no one knows how to do? The recent “Sit/Lie” measure is at the corp of it. We have kids/citizens/homeless “sitting,” on the sidewalk in front of businesses, smoking pot, going to the bathroom in doorways (lets exclude people with mental illness for a moment, whom can’t make choices for themselves) and disrupting the commerce and life with others. The common refrain from this group is of course, “I know my rights.” The rub for me is that they don’t assume the responsibilities that go along with our rights.

    The Shelters are crowded – we have limited affordable housing with subsidies. Many of our homeless people are not really breaking any laws, but can be disruptive – we have business owners, some city council members, and citizens wanting to make it against the law (couched well euphemistically with words like “Measure S,” and municipal Code that) to sit on the street, as a solution. Measure S didn’t pass, frustration continues, and very few people actually talk with the kids and homeless themselves. I do, I was one of them. I encourage my fellow homeless/addict citizens to utilize the services available, and consider the responsibilities that come with our rights. At the same time, I’m trying to find a place to be of service somewhere with or between a Homeless Commission that has a limited role, and the desire of the City Council to create a more active “working group,” to create some immediate solutions.

    I’m in favor of a centralized intake center – one place for everyone to go to find the services they need. I’m also a big fan of engaging our homeless citizens directly. Too often business owners call the police, or the ambassadors, instead of just walking outside, chatting with the kids, and confronting problem behavior directly. Recently, at a Homeless Commission meeting I was presented with a Homeless Bill of Rights. It’s missing the responsibilities that go along with our rights, and too many homeless aren’t taking responsibility for themselves and their behavior. I can understand the desire for measure “S”, but isn’t that just moving someone who isn’t taking responsibility for their behavior – into someone else’s doorway?

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Congratulations on your appointment.

    Can you offer any insight into why, exactly, Berkeley draws so many homeless people with no prior ties to the city? Once they’re here, we have to deal with them, but I’m interested in knowing why we’re such a magnet. Our city has finite resources and services aren’t free. In telling your own story, you listed a number of agencies — most of them local — is that why you and others come to/remain in Berkeley? Did you grow up here? Have family here who wouldn’t help you out? Or did you come here for some other reason and end up staying because we provide more than any other city?

    You might be aware of the phenomenon of “induced traffic” — adding lanes to freeways ends up increasing traffic, not decreasing it. The same is true in reverse: when a freeway is suddenly closed, traffic drops: people stop driving.

    It seems to me that we have an analogous problem with respect to homeless services in Berkeley. Adding more services than are available in other cities isn’t going to decrease homelessness in Berkeley; it will increase it and we’ll have fewer resources to serve the residents of our city.

    My challenge to your Commission: figure out what it would take to make Berkeley less of a draw. Let’s concentrate our resources on helping our own citizens and ask other cities to do their part too. The homeless deserve help, but they don’t all have to find it here.

  • The_Sharkey

    Too often business owners call the police, or the ambassadors, instead of just walking outside, chatting with the kids, and confronting problem behavior directly.

    Calling the police and ambassadors is exactly what they ought to do. Running a profitable business in Berkeley is difficult enough without employers having to waste work time trying to get street kids to stop hassling their customers.

    While many of the folks on our streets are just burnouts looking for handouts, some of them are legitimately dangerous. They might not physically assault a business owner, but saying the wrong thing to the wrong gutter punk could result in thousands of dollars of damage to your business. The risk/reward ratio of engaging in direct confrontation with any of them just isn’t worth it.

  • Gabriela Rodriguez

    I foresee nothing happening nothing being accomplished, or resolved. I don’t believe there is an amicable way or approaching this.

  • Gabriela Rodriguez

    Of**