Tag Archives: Berkeley homelessness

Rodents, trash prompt city of Berkeley clean-up of homeless camp on Gilman; residents ‘scattered’

Police officers visit the homeless camp on Gilman Street in West Berkeley daily to provide outreach for residents. Photo: Drew Jaffe
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Citing concerns about garbage and rodents, both dead and alive, the city of Berkeley sent in a team to clean up Gilman Street beneath Interstate 80 where homeless people have been living in recent months, city staff said Friday.

At least one advocate for the homeless criticized the effort, saying no one was told in advance about the operation, which dispersed residents and will make it harder to provide important services to them, he said.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said Friday shortly before noon that the operation to address ongoing sanitation problems on Gilman under the freeway had gone smoothly. He estimated that perhaps a dozen people were on site when the city arrived Friday morning. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley gives Gilman Street homeless a reprieve

Police officers visit the homeless camp on Gilman Street in West Berkeley daily to provide outreach for residents. Photo: Drew Jaffe
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The city of Berkeley, which had planned to remove the personal possessions of the homeless living on Gilman Street under Interstate 80 on July 15, has backed off its insistence that the homeless encampment is a public nuisance.

City Manager Christine Daniel sent out a memo July 9 saying the city is terminating its public nuisance determination. Berkeley just learned that the East Bay Community Law Center is working with city agencies to find temporary housing for the Gilman homeless. The city wants to give everyone more time to find new arrangements, Daniel said.

Daniel emphasized, however, that the encampment is posing a health hazard and the city’s patience is limited. … Continue reading »

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BOSS to honor Berkeley’s ‘Rising Stars’ on Thursday

Kyle Evans, one of the Rising Star honorees, has been accepted to Brown University. Evans was homeless only last year
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A year ago, Kyle Evans and his family were sleeping in motel rooms and, at times, their car. Despite his circumstances, Evans focused on keeping his grades up and being a role model for his younger sister. He had to forgo various activities enjoyed by his peers, as his family didn’t have the money to pay for them. He managed to keep a positive perspective and achieve success despite the odds.

“Adversity is a chance to find the God in you,” said Evans, who has been accepted to Brown University and plans to become a doctor. “It makes you a stronger person.”

Evans is one of 20 youth who will be honored Thursday at the first annual “Rising Stars” gala, put on by local advocacy organization Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) to recognize youth for achievement in the face of adversity. The group is also raising money this week for a scholarship fund for award recipients; scroll down for details.

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Berkeley volunteer redefines good Samaritanism

JC Orton holds up a copy of xxx. Photo: Matt Werner
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By Matt Werner

Every Sunday morning for the last 17 years, Zyg Deutschman has gone over to JC Orton’s house at 6 a.m. to help prepare breakfast for the homeless in Berkeley. One morning, about a decade ago, JC opened his door to find Zyg slumped over on his doorstep. JC first thought Zyg was drunk but then saw that Zyg’s face was gray. He was having a major heart attack. JC called 911 and continued preparing the meal after the paramedics arrived and took Zyg to the hospital.

Years later, JC recalls how he was able to finish getting the meal out on time that morning. He filled his van with oatmeal, grits, sweet rolls and fruit; arrived at People’s Park in time to feed the 80 or so people who’d gathered for breakfast; then drive to Civic Center Park (also called Provo Park, across from Berkeley’s City Hall), where he fed about 80 more people. This was all in a day’s work for JC, who heads up the organization Night on the Streets Catholic Worker.

JC lives below the poverty line. He suffers from diabetes. Skin cancer has left scars below his left eye and left forearm. His wife is bipolar and recovering from drug addiction. Despite these odds, he and the Worker serve breakfast in the parks every Sunday morning and soup three nights a week. JC, aided by a few college students and recent grads, distributes hundreds of sleeping bags and runs the storm shelter on cold and rainy nights. … Continue reading »

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At the Write Home Project, the young homeless are heard

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By Victor Casillas Valle

Nestled behind St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, on Bancroft Way in Berkeley, is one huge set of steel steps covered in rust and foliage. Walking up them, there’s a feeling of urban beauty, something that is calming with a rush of city excitement. Reaching the top, you enter a high-ceilinged auditorium with huge windows and an airy sense of natural light. Every Monday, the room is filled with conversation rising from the writing workshop, or occasional open mic, provided by the Write Home Project.

Conceived and run by two UC Berkeley alumni and working poets, Gabriel Cortez and Natasha Huey, The Write Home Project facilitates creative arts work by homeless youth (under 25). Write Home provides an outlet for its participants to be heard while they tell stories about, and create a dialogue around, the state of homelessness. … Continue reading »

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Caltrans fence forces homeless to find new camp

The people who used to sleep under the Gilman/I-80 underpass are trying to adjust to their new cramped sleeping situation. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Responding to complaints that the homeless people who camped under the Gilman/I-80 underpass were engaged in criminal activity, Caltrans has fenced off the area — pushing the encampment onto a narrow strip nearby.

Caltrans installed the fencing between Feb. 10 and March 6 at the request of the Berkeley Police Department, “in order to help curtail criminal activity in the area,” said Caltrans spokesman Robert Haus via email.

“We have had complaints regarding criminal activity associated with the encampment down there,” said police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats via email. “We have reached out to those camping in the area through members of our Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), Area Coordinators, and Mobile Crisis workers.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley dumps possessions of 8 homeless people

Leroy Morgan. Phon: Bryan Westfall
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The city of Berkeley collected and threw away the unattended possessions of eight homeless people on Dec. 26. Afterwards many of them said they had to scramble to find new blankets and coverings to stave off the chill of recent winter nights, although the city said it had sifted through the items for valuables such as those and found none. One of the homeless men said the items that were taken were vital to his survival.

The city confiscated about 13 shopping carts filled with possessions on a piece of city property on Eastshore Highway and Gilman the day after Christmas because workers thought the items had been abandoned, according to Matthai Chakko, a spokesman for Berkeley. Staff sorted through the goods and, when they did not find anything of value, dumped it.

“They did clear property that was unattended,” Chakko said. “They looked through it and didn’t find anything valuable. They didn’t find tents, or sleeping bags, or blankets. We would have bagged, tagged, and contained them.” … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Why oppose building new homes for the homeless?

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The homeless are the most marginalized and dispossessed people in the United States. To be homeless is to experience a wide spectrum of discrimination. In the past decade, legislation seeking to criminalize the homeless has gained popularity in cities that are fed up or exasperated with the “homeless problem”.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty reported that between 30% and 50% of major American cities criminalize some form of homelessness, ranging from “aggressive” panhandling to simply sitting on the sidewalk.

Our own city … Continue reading »

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Berkeley considers ‘visionary’ homeless housing project

City officials are considering the possibility of turning this parking lot into a supportive homeless housing complex. Image: Google Maps
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council took its first steps at considering a “super-green affordable housing project” that would offer extensive services to the homeless on the site of what’s now a 112-spot parking lot at Berkeley Way and Henry Street.

The “innovative housing and services center with permanently supportive housing, along with emergency shelter and supportive services” would “meet a critical need, and help further the City’s goals to end homelessness,” according to a staff report from Tuesday’s meeting.

Members of the business community have expressed concerns about the loss of parking during construction, and said the parking supply would need to be doubled to ensure that visitors to downtown, who are expected to increase as the area is revitalized, will have access to readily available spots. They noted that decreased parking already in effect or planned, with the construction of the new Berkeley Art Museum and a proposal to demolish and rebuild the Center Street garage. … Continue reading »

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City to consider new approach to emergency shelters

Emergency homeless shelters could be allowed year-round in commercial zones (pink, 60 beds, and yellow, 25 beds) without a permit; and seasonally in high-density residential zones (blue, 15 beds) without a permit. Click the image to view a larger map.) Image: City of Berkeley and Berkeleyside
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Berkeley’s Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing in September to consider changes to the municipal zoning code to make it easier to open emergency homeless shelters in certain commercial and high-density residential areas, according to a notice sent out by email late last week.

The changes could allow providers to open shelters without the use permit that is currently required. State legislation, Senate Bill 2, mandates cities to have at least one zoning designation that allows shelters to be located without discretionary government review.

In some commercial areas, emergency shelters with up to 60 beds could be allowed year-round without a permit; in high-density residential areas, the commission is slated to consider winter season shelters only, with a limit of 15 beds. … Continue reading »

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New talks on homelessness in Berkeley start Thursday

Derrick Coetzee
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Thursday evening, the Berkeley Task Force on Homelessness will begin a new community-driven process designed to explore homelessness in Berkeley, and how it might be addressed thoughtfully and humanely.

Initiated by Councilman Jesse Arreguín, the task force was created “to continue the much-needed conversation on homelessness after Measure S, which would have banned sitting on commercial sidewalks, narrowly failed last fall,” according to a statement released by Arreguín’s office Wednesday. The task force arose as an alternative way to address homelessness.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Food and Housing Project wins $1m grant

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Berkeley Food and Housing Project was recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs last week with a grant of more than $1 million to expand its services to homeless veterans.

“This is huge for our agency,” Jim Huntley, BFHP director of advancement, said. “This is a population that really needs all the help that society can muster.”

The VA currently helps to fund the nonprofit’s small-scale men’s shelter, which has the capacity to provide food, shelter and other services to 12 homeless veterans at a time. With the help of the $1,007,000 Roads Home grant, the shelter will be able to increase the number of homeless veterans it can help and almost double the area it covers, by extending services to Solano and Contra Costa counties. The money will officially become available to the organization in October. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-Ed: Berkeley needs a year-round youth shelter

One resident's bed and belongings, on the last day before the YEAH shelter closed for the summer
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Last week, Berkeley’s only youth shelter — Youth Engagement, Advocacy, and Housing (YEAH!) –closed its doors, not to reopen until November. At 7:00 in the morning, the shelter’s young residents began walking out onto the street, carrying all of their belongings. Some asked to borrow a blanket before they left. Despite months of effort by shelter staff to find other placements, there were only a few transitional housing spots available. Most of the youth, ages 18-25, left the shelter without anywhere stable to stay. One young man, when asked what his plan was, said he had to get to class—he will have to study for and take his community college exams without a safe place to sleep at night.  … Continue reading »

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