Tag Archives: Berkeley homelessness

Op-ed: Berkeley must change the way it provides shelter to the homeless

Print Friendly

The people who run the center for providing Berkeley’s homeless services (the HUB) write on their website: “Since 1970, Berkeley Food and Housing Project has been a compassionate provider of homeless services.”

Forty-six years! The plight of Berkeley’s homeless is arguably the worse for all that time and effort. Isn’t it time to try a different approach?

Berkeley passed an emergency shelter ordinance almost a year ago, then sat on its collective bureaucratic fanny for the entire spring and summer. So here we are once more, with the homeless facing rain, wind, and cold with nowhere to go. Isn’t it time to try a different approach?

We know how to end homelessness – provide people with homes. We know what homeless people want – a roof over their heads; a secure room or two; no one kicking them out after a night or three. Or twenty. Just what anyone wants – a place to call their own. Isn’t it time to try it? … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Protesters criticize Berkeley homeless services center

A group of protesters is criticizing the way the city of Berkeley is handling assistance for people experiencing homelessness. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

Occupants of a protest camp outside the city of Berkeley’s homeless services intake center in South Berkeley this week criticized the way the city is allocating aid to people on the streets.

Campers have reportedly moved on, as of Friday morning, but the issues they raised remain.

The occupation, organized by a city commissioner as well as the grassroots First They Came for the Homeless group — which had a protest camp outside the downtown Berkeley post office for more than 17 months — set up Monday and planned to stay at least through the weekend to make its point.

According to a Facebook post by one of the organizers, however, there was a city raid Friday morning and the camp is now gone.

A dozen or so protesters set up tents on the sidewalk outside the city’s Coordinated Entry System, run by the Berkeley Food & Housing Project, at 1901 Fairview St. Also known as “The Hub,” the center is just east of Adeline Street and a few blocks from the Ashby BART station.

Protesters have said the center is disorganized, that it’s too difficult to get help and that people are being sent out of the area for housing. They have also said the city should be spending its money differently, and would prefer a place to set up tents or tiny houses rather than the approach the city is currently taking.

“That’s where people are supposed to help people out here and they’re not doing it,” said Daniel McMullan III, a longtime community advocate who has fought for disabled people and others who find themselves on the streets. “You try to go through channels all the way but, if that doesn’t work, the only thing that works after that is publicly embarrassing the agency.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Vigil held where Berkeley homeless man died in street

A group of people held a memorial service Friday for a homeless man who died on the street. Photo: Ted Friedman
Print Friendly

On Sunday, Berkeley police got a call about a dead body near the doorway of what used to be the U-Haul building on San Pablo Avenue and Addison Street. When they arrived they found a homeless man who appeared to have died of natural causes.

Six days later, a group of Berkeley residents gathered at the spot to commemorate the man, whose name was Roberto Benitas. He was 50. Most of those gathered only knew the man by sight but wanted to call attention to the fact that a homeless man had died on the streets.

“It seems very wrong for a person to die out of doors and their death isn’t noticed,” Linda Franklin wrote to Berkeleyside. “Their story needs to be told.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Man to be sentenced after masturbation near kids at park

A man is arrested in Ohlone Park after police responded to a call of a man who was touching his genitals near a group of children, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, Aug 3. Photo: David Yee
Print Friendly

A man with a criminal record for indecent exposure is set to be sentenced this week after Berkeley police officers say he masturbated near playground children at Ohlone Park in August.

According to court papers, Michael Ward, 32, was naked — with only a jacket draped over his lap — when police contacted him Aug. 3 at the North Berkeley park just before 2 p.m. He was on probation for indecent exposure after a 2014 arrest in Berkeley on Fifth Street.

One witness told police Ward was masturbating near a children’s playground while children were in the area. Ward, who has no listed home address, “was seated a few feet away from a playground.” When the witness saw him, he was wearing just socks and a shirt, and had a jacket over his lap.

According to an individual in the area, Ward was a regular camper in the park. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Homelessness panel: ‘There’s no place for people to go’

Eve Ahmed, from the city of Berkeley's Homeless Outreach Team, talked about her work during a panel on homelessness at the Berkeley Public Library over the weekend. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

Eve Ahmed starts her shift each day at the free community breakfast in North Berkeley at the Dorothy Day House.

“It’s a way for everyone in the city who is homeless to connect with me,” she told a crowded room at the Berkeley Public Library on Saturday. “I work by myself and I treat people the way I want to be treated.”

Ahmed has been an outreach worker for the city of Berkeley since 1993. When she started, she was part of a team of 12. Of that group, she’s the only one left.

Ahmed was among five people on a library panel Saturday that was designed to “dispel stereotypes, demystify homelessness, and lay the groundwork for greater public understanding and involvement.” The discussion, sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, was organized by the library’s Homeless Task Force, which formed last year.

Joining Ahmed were Gwen Austin from Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS); Sam Davis, professor emeritus of architecture at UC Berkeley; Joseph Cuff, who lived on the streets for five years in Berkeley but is now housed; and Julie Winkelstein, a former librarian who has studied youth homelessness and social justice.

About 100 people crowded into the library’s community room to listen to their stories. (Two others who were slated to join the panel were not able to attend.) … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Berkeley Library to host panel on homelessness Saturday

A sign set up by the Old City Hall homeless camp. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Print Friendly

Homelessness in Berkeley has been an ongoing and controversial issue for a long time. The Berkeley Public Library Homeless Task Force is hosting a panel discussion titled “Homelessness in Berkeley” on Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Central Library at 2090 Kittredge St., from 2-4 p.m.

The panel includes experts on the subject, local service providers and case workers discussing their work in the streets, and people who have experienced homelessness sharing the reality of life on the street.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

Nationally known advocate Dr. Julie Winkelstein, MLIS, PhD, will moderate the program. She will be joined by Sam Davis, UC Professor Emeritus, Department of Architecture; Gwen Austin, Development Associate/Community Builder-Organizer, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS); Eve Ahmed, City of Berkeley, Homeless Outreach, Berkeley Mental Health Adult Services; Joseph, advocate, Berkeley resident, formerly homeless; Sharon Alford, Coordinated Entry System/Berkeley Food and Housing Project; and Rayven Wilson (tentative), former Berkeley High student, now at SFSU. … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Man charged after attack, threats outside police station

Berkeley Police station. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

A felon who violently attacked another man outside the Berkeley Police Department, and threatened to kill him if he was Jewish, has been charged with two felonies by the Alameda County district attorney’s office, authorities report.

The attack happened at 3:10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

According to court papers, 50-year-old William Sermon tried to choke the victim with both hands “and attempted to gouge the victim’s eyes out with his thumbs.”

Police said Sermon also threatened to kill the victim several times, “and stated that if the victim was at least twenty five percent Jewish he would kill him.”

The victim was cut above his right eye during the assault. He was still able to identify Sermon as his attacker after police tracked Sermon down the next day. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

Man charged after aluminum bat attack in Berkeley

Zuber Awad. Photo: ACSO
Print Friendly

A homeless man charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon after an attack with an aluminum baseball bat in West Berkeley in July is scheduled to appear in court to be sentenced Wednesday.

According to court papers, Zuber Awad, 26, was with another man’s girlfriend at University Avenue and West Frontage Road on July 1 when angry words were exchanged.

Police say Awad then hit the other man with an aluminum baseball bat causing an injury that required eight stitches.

According to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside, Awad was identified to police as a homeless camper in the area who was known to wear a diving weight around his neck.

Police arrested Awad the day after the baseball bat assault at about 10:10 a.m. at Cedar and Second streets in West Berkeley. According to police, he was on probation at the time of his arrest for battery causing serious bodily injury.

According to police, Awad said he did hit the man but that he did so with his closed fist, not the bat. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

Op-ed: It’s not rocket science to solve homelessness

Print Friendly

The issue of homelessness is a Gordian knot that for years has perplexed not only elected officials, but also the citizens of Berkeley, in particular our business community.

While many solutions have been proposed and implemented, and millions of dollars spent, the net result is a 53% increase in the un-sheltered homeless population. This should make one pause and ask, “Why is that?”

In order to answer that question we must first understand that current policy is either to criminalize … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Man, with knife in pocket, arrested after double stabbing

Homeless people make camp in Civic Center Park as the second Bay Area Book Festival takes place around them, in Berkeley, on Saturday, June 4, 2016. Photo: David Yee
Print Friendly

The man police say is responsible for stabbing two people at Civic Center Park in June has been arrested and is set to appear in court Tuesday.

Authorities say he had the knife used in the stabbing in his pocket at the time of his arrest last week.

Police arrested 62-year-old Lindell Waters in Oakland on Friday evening during a vehicle stop.

Waters was arrested by the Oakland Police Department at about 6:30 p.m. on San Pablo Avenue and 32nd Street. OPD then contacted the Berkeley Police Department after seeing that he had a warrant out of Berkeley for attempted murder in connection with the June 18 stabbing.

A woman previously described the scene at the park before the stabbing to Berkeleyside: “There was definitely an altercation going on between the seemingly homeless folks by the fountain” involving “lots of loud yelling of profanity and loose dogs. A woman seemed to be bugging a man that fit the description of the the suspect.”

The fight happened adjacent to a popular Berkeley farmers market on Center Street, though the stabbing took place at 3:35 p.m. after the market had officially ended at 3 p.m.

Lt. Kevin Schofield, a Berkeley Police spokesman, confirmed that the stabbing at Civic Center Park, at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, followed a “heated dispute among a group of homeless people.”  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley police recover 18 pounds of pot, alleged hash oil operation on Gilman

Police recovered 18 pounds of marijuana at a Gilman Street homeless encampment Saturday. Photo: BPD
Print Friendly

Two Berkeley Police officers on foot patrol at a Gilman Street homeless encampment over the weekend reportedly found 18 pounds of marijuana inside a tent that smelled of weed.

Berkeley Police Lt. Kevin Schofield, a department spokesman, said the officers were doing a security check near Gilman and the Eastshore Highway at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday when they came across a tent that smelled strongly of marijuana.

Last week, after Caltrans installed a large fence beneath the I-80 freeway on Gilman where dozens of homeless people had been camping, many of those individuals reportedly moved their tents over to the Eastshore Highway and Gilman, local residents have told Berkeleyside.

Inside the tent, police said they found 18 pounds of pot in a garbage bag, 25 cans of butane, and what they determined to be a hash oil cultivation system.

Schofield said the butane can be used in the cooking process to create hash oil from the marijuana.

Authorities also found a replica pistol and a switchblade knife, he said.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

To curtail camping, Caltrans builds new fence on Gilman

Caltrans workers work on putting up a steel fence to keep out homeless campers at the Gilman Street interchange of Interstate 80, in Berkeley, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. Photo: David Yee
Print Friendly

In the latest attempt by authorities to keep people from camping in Berkeley beneath the Interstate 80 freeway, Caltrans built a stronger fence on Gilman Street this week.

Homeless campers, many of whom came from the Albany Bulb, have said the freeway offers shelter in the rainy months, and feels like their place of last resort. For those who panhandle, the location allows easy access to both vehicles coming off the freeway and nearby San Pablo Avenue, where McDonald’s is another high-traffic spot to interact with drivers, and gas stations offer a place to clean up.

While advocates for those experiencing homelessness say these individuals shouldn’t be penalized and have nowhere else to go, other local residents have expressed frustration at what the city has described as a public health nightmare rife with used needles, bottles of urine, rats scurrying around and human feces.

Read more about the Gilman underpass.

The new fencing, on the south side of Gilman Street below the overpass, is designed to make it harder for people to set up tents on either side of the sidewalk. It joins other new fencing that has gone up in recent weeks to restrict access to areas around the freeway where the homeless have been living.

Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said the city of Berkeley asked the agency to improve upon the existing chain link fencing that was installed in 2014 to try to tackle the same problem.

“Berkeley asked us to put in something,” he said. “And we agreed that that was warranted.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Homeless advocates in Berkeley say officials are dumping too many prized personal possessions

Crews load stuff found near Gilman Street in June  Photo: Ted Friedman
Print Friendly

By Mary Rees

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but who gets to decide which it is?

Every two weeks, Caltrans clears items out from the homeless encampments along the Gilman Street underpass near Interstate 80, according to Bob Haus, the public information branch chief for Caltrans. Sometimes workers from the city of Berkeley remove things, too, such as on July 7.

Read more about Berkeley homelessness on Berkeleyside.

The clean-ups are announced in advance, and when workers arrive the people living there pack up their things as quickly as they can and move them a few hundred feet. Then crews from Caltrans and Berkeley sift through what’s left and decide what’s valuable and what’s not.

“If belongings are deemed valuable, we hold onto them for 30 days at the nearest maintenance yard,” Haus said. If something’s unclaimed and considered worthless, Caltrans disposes of it. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,