Op-ed: An open letter to Berkeley on homelessness: You are being scammed by the City Council

Do storage lockers magically appear on Tom Bates’ order? Do angels from on high descend with public restrooms on Linda Maio’s wish? Is it common for shower facilities to construct themselves from piping and tile without human intervention?

If you answered “yes” to these questions then you’ve entered the mindset of the Berkeley City Council majority — who last week voted to criminalize homeless people’s behavior while invoking the humanitarian fairy to do what they claim they want to do to help the homeless.

Storage lockers? At last week’s City Council meeting there was no money appropriated for the purchase of storage lockers. There was no timetable specified for the installation of any storage lockers. There was no directive ordering the City Manager to come up with a plan for the purchase, installation and management of storage lockers for the homeless by any specific date.

Public bathrooms and showers? The City Council did not appropriate any money for the building of public bathrooms or showers. There was no timetable set as to when public bathrooms and showers had to be made available. There was no directive ordering the City Manager to create a plan to build and maintain public bathrooms and shower facilities by any date.

And yet, in article after article about the City Council’s action, we have read how the City Council has “required” that there be storage lockers, public bathrooms and shower facilities. The truth is none of the ordinances passed by the City Council contains any such language.

Despite the majority Council’s apparent belief, none of these things appears out of quantum fluctuations in the space-time vacuum! Money, a timetable, and a plan: all are needed to make anything happen.

Yes, it is true that one ordinance specifies that restrictions on placing belongings on the sidewalk will not take effect until there are a limited number of storage lockers available. Yes, it is true that the motion passed by the City Council does a “referral of additional services to the City Manager for implementation.” But let me repeat again: the ordinances don’t providing any funding, a timetable or a plan to make even such an inadequate amount of storage (50 storage units for 600+ homeless people!) available, and the referral provides no date by which a report is due, let alone an implementation schedule.

The City Council majority has played Berkeley residents like a fiddle. They know Berkeley’s populace does not want an all stick and no carrot approach to “dealing” with homelessness. So they carefully threw us a toothless carrot hoping that no one would notice. By claiming to provide storage, public restrooms and showers they make us feel good, or at least good enough to shrug and turn away, while it is left to those who can read the fine print (Here, item #28: http://tinyurl.com/o82puhf), to relate the uncomfortable truth:

The City Council majority is scamming you.

If they wanted to help the homeless they would be providing the money, a timetable and the plans to create the facilities they say they want to create. They didn’t. They don’t. They just want you to believe they are.

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JP Massar is a Berkeley resident and an activist with the Berkeley Post Office Defenders and Strike Debt Bay Area.