Tag Archives: Berkeley homelessness

Opinionator

Op-ed: Not in my front yard: Cuts to downtown services threaten basic quality of life for the homeless

Print Friendly

While the number one priority for serving homeless people is (or should be) helping them find affordable housing to live in, for the last several years the city has also rightly deemed it an important quality-of-life priority that homeless people have access to showers, bathrooms, and laundry facilities.

Until now.

BOSS’s Multi-Agency Service Center (MASC) is a downtown drop-in center located in the basement at the City Veterans building. Since 2000, it has provided access to showers, bathrooms, laundry, and, … Continue reading »

Tagged

UC Berkeley’s Suitcase Clinic: Services for the homeless, life lessons for the volunteers

Chris Ki, an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, cuts the hair of Michael Georgeius, a client of The Suitcase Clinic. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small/UC Berkeley
Print Friendly

By Cathy Cockrell, UC Berkeley News

A foot washing. A haircut. Empathy. Legal advice. Eyeglasses or dental work. Medical attention for a wound, a case of scabies or even diabetes.

All these needs bring people living on the margins to the Suitcase Clinic — a free service that UC Berkeley students have provided near campus for more than a quarter century.

See Berkeleyside’s Berkeley Homeless Project coverage. Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

On a recent Tuesday evening, several dozen people turned up at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, on Dana Street, for the first “general clinic” of the summer (the Suitcase Clinic also holds specialized clinics for women, youth, and LGBTQI people). … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,
Community

City erects fence at Gilman to deal with homeless campers

Workers clear out a homeless encampment near the Gilman interchange of Interstate 80 to put up a fence, in Berkeley, on Thursday, July 7, 2016. Photo: David Yee ©2016
Print Friendly

The city of Berkeley is working Thursday to install a new fence on Gilman Street on the southeast side of the Interstate 80 freeway as part of ongoing efforts to curtail camping by homeless in the area.

Jim Hynes, from the Berkeley city manager’s office, brought “No Trespassing” signs down to the site in the late morning to hand out to workers who were installing the fence. Hynes said he was also looking into what it might cost to put more fencing on the north side of the street east of the freeway.

Three people received citations Thursday from Berkeley Police officers for obstructing the sidewalk, but no arrests were made. Campers in the area said their property — much of which had both material and sentimental value — was taken and put into a dumpster as part of the enforcement effort.

Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol were also on scene for the cleanup.

Hynes said campers in the area were given notice two days in a row that authorities would be on scene Thursday. He pointed out dozens of used syringes left in the area in the wake of the cleanup, as well as juice bottles full of urine. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

Gilman Street underpass: For many, the poster child of Berkeley homeless camps

This man, who didn't want to give his name, lives by the Gilman underpass. He makes $30 to $40 a day  scavenging. He finds lots of food (people throw away a lot from Trader Joe's) as well as things like scooters, skateboards, etc. When Caltrans and Berkeley recently cleaned out the camp, he just went across the street and returned when they left, he said. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Print Friendly

Bood’s home is a blue tarp on Eastshore Freeway, the frontage road right by the Gilman Street underpass. At 37, he’s been living on the streets for a few years, driven there by a break-up with a long-time girlfriend.

Bood scavenges for a living. He makes the rounds in Berkeley and El Cerrito looking for tossed food (a lot of people throw away food from Trader Joe’s, he said) and discarded clothing he can sell to Buffalo Exchange and other consignment stores. The area around his tarp reflects the way he makes a living: There are folding chairs, rugs, candles and flashlights, among other items.

See full coverage on Berkeleyside of the Berkeley Homeless Project.

Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, Berkeley police and city workers came to the area to clean it out about two weeks ago, June 16. They carted away garbage trucks full of debris. They also found more than 250 used hypodermic needles and bottles of urine, as well as feces and dead rodents.

Did the clean up have any effect on Bood and the rest of the people hanging out in the area?

No.

“We gathered our stuff up, we went across the street and waited for them to leave,” said Bood, who did not give his last name. “Then we set back up.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

Would a homeless mayor in Berkeley make a difference for the homeless?

Mike Lee, who is running for mayor, at his "office" at Au Coquelet on June 22, 2016. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Print Friendly

Guy “Mike” Lee sat at a wooden table in the back of Au Coquelet restaurant on University Avenue. His laptop computer was open in front of him, its cord stretching behind to an electrical outlet on the wall. Lee’s cell phone was also charging.

This spot serves as an office of sorts for Lee, 60, who is running for mayor of Berkeley. Lee is homeless, so every morning he travels from where he sleeps (which he won’t reveal – for safety reasons, he says) to coffee shops and quick-serve restaurants in the downtown, meeting people along the way.

“People come looking for me,” said Lee, who has a broad forehead, deep brown eyes and a long, wiry salt and pepper beard. “They check in at Starbucks depending what time it is. Generally Monday through Friday it’s Starbucks or McDonald’s. If they don’t see me, they’ll come down here.”

Lee only arrived in Berkeley on this go-around about a year ago, but in that short time he has emerged as a voice for the homeless, as well as a leader. He was part of the “Post Office Defenders,” the group that occupied a space next to the Main Post Office on Allston Way until it was shut down in April. He participated in Liberty City, the encampment outside Old City Hall last winter. Lee is active on Facebook and keeps up a steady stream of posts on his page, The Bum As Mayor?  He is also in regular communication with city officials and politicians. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
Community

Homelessness in Berkeley: The fact sheet

Berkeleyside readers asked a number of questions about homelessness in the city. We try to answer some of them below. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski
Print Friendly

You asked and we did our best to address some of the basic questions that came up for readers last week about homelessness in Berkeley. Many of the inquiries have and will help shape Berkeleyside coverage, but are too complex to tackle here.

Below, we take a look at the demographics, the resources and the types of services offered in Berkeley, and offer some perspectives on a few of the most frequently asked questions. There’s so much more to say. But we hope this fact sheet on homelessness, along with the rest of the coverage in our Berkeley Homeless Project, can serve as a jumping off point and perhaps a baseline for the broader community to help promote a deeper understanding going forward. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,

Berkeley mayoral hopefuls weigh in on homelessness

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
Print Friendly

With longtime Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates completing what he says will be his last term, six people have expressed interest in running for his seat come November 2016. Berkeleyside asked each of them to share their views, in 200 words, about what they see as potential solutions to ending homelessness. Read their ideas below.

See full coverage on Berkeleyside of the Berkeley Homeless Project.

Click the candidate’s name or photograph to reach the campaign website to learn more. Berkeleyside will provide in-depth coverage about the election later in the year. Responses appear below in the order they were received. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Photos: Living on the streets of Berkeley

Homeless person sleeps on Berkeley street. Photo: Ted Friedman
Print Friendly

Walk down any street in Berkeley, from the shores of the Marina up to the UC Berkeley campus, and chances are good you will spot someone living on the street. Sometimes they are sleeping. Sometimes they are playing music. Sometimes they are panhandling. On occasion, they are protesting.

See full coverage on Berkeleyside of the Berkeley Homeless Project.

Berkeleyside has gathered portraits and pictures of the city’s homeless in a photo essay we hope shows a range of experiences people living on the street have. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,
Community

Berkeley seeks to house those most in need at The Hub

Call takers at The Hub field inquiries about shelter beds, housing and other issues as part of a process to determine who is most in need. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

It used to be that those who were homeless in Berkeley had to navigate a complex tangle of services to try to find help. In January, the city launched what it hopes will be a coordinated, collaborative system designed to provide permanent housing to those who need it most and collect data to create a better overall picture of who is seeking aid in the city.

One doorway. One phone number. Whichever path you take, the vision is that your request will help you get the help you need, especially if your needs are significant and your barriers to helping yourself are high. That’s not to say everyone will get shelter. Many won’t. But, for those who don’t, the pathway to access other assistance offered in Berkeley could look a lot less confusing.

See full coverage on Berkeleyside of the Berkeley Homeless Project.

Welcome to The Hub. The official name is the Coordinated Entry System. It’s also been called the Housing Crisis Resolution Center, or the HCRC.

Whatever you call it, don’t call it a “new program,” said Sharon Hawkins Leyden, director of client services at The Hub. Think of it, she said, as massive system change.

“I’ve never seen such cooperation in my 30 years. It’s like the ship is really turning,” she said. “It feels like it has the potential to really help people in a really different way.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley homelessness: A timeline from 1982 to 2016

A voucher used in the "Berkeley Cares" program of 1991
Print Friendly

Many people trace the roots of the current homeless crisis back to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. He came into office in 1981 with a mandate to cut federal spending. And cut he did. Early in his term Reagan halved the budget for public housing and even tried to eliminate federal subsidies for public low-income housing. The annual budget of $16 billion in 1979 went to just $1 billion in 1983. Reagan also did a number of other things that contributed to a spike in poverty. There was also a recession. By the mid-1980s, there were about 600,000 homeless people in the United States. Today there are from 634,000 to 1.6 million homeless in the U.S., according to various studies. In Berkeley, official estimates say were 834 homeless people as of January 2015, while advocates say there are likely more than 1,000.

Partial Berkeley Homelessness Timeline

1982 – People in campers set up a “Reaganville” encampment near the Marina.

January 1985 – Rainbow Village opens near the Marina (now Cesar Chavez Park). It was a half-acre plot for homeless people who lived in vehicles to park their cars for $30 a month. The city provided some rudimentary services such as a sink and running water. About 35 to 40 people lived at Rainbow Village.

See full coverage on Berkeleyside of the Berkeley Homeless Project.

Aug. 16, 1985 – Two “Deadheads” living at Rainbow Village were shot and killed. The bodies of Mary Regina Gioia, 22, of Schenectady, New York, and Gregory Kniffin, 18, of Wilson, Connecticut, were found in the bay. They had been beaten badly and shot at close range in the neck. Within a few days, Berkeley police had arrested Ralph International Thomas, another occupant of Rainbow Village, and he was eventually charged with the murders. He was convicted of the killings and sentenced to death. New attorneys later argued in court that Thomas’ defense attorney had not sought witnesses that could have helped his case and a federal appeals court eventually ordered a new trial decades later. Thomas, 59, died in jail in January 2014 while waiting for a new trial.

March 2, 1986 – Rainbow Village is shut down. The experiment lasted 13 months. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,
Community

Homelessness in Berkeley: An overview

Man in People's Park on June 27, 2009. Photo by Danny Howard/Creative Commons
Print Friendly

It was such a novel idea that newspapers around the country wrote about it.

To help cut down on panhandling, Berkeley merchants would sell 25-cent vouchers in packets of four to customers, who could then hand them out to the homeless. This “comprehensive” strategy, said the Los Angeles Times, would let the homeless people who hung out on Shattuck and Telegraph avenues use the vouchers for bus fare, food, to take a shower or do laundry. With an estimated 800 people without permanent housing in town, merchants sold $1,900 worth of “Berkeley Cares” vouchers in just a few months.

“By all accounts Berkeley’s street people are already eating and even smelling better, and those desperate for hard currency to finance a drug habit are drifting elsewhere,” reported the New York Times.

The year: 2016?

No, it was 1991.

                  See full coverage on Berkeleyside of the Berkeley Homeless Project.

It’s been 25 years since the failure of “Berkeley Cares.” In that time, Berkeley has tried numerous ways to reduce the number of homeless people on the streets and minimize their impact on luckier citizens who may be dismayed by seeing men and women walking around or sitting on sidewalks with shopping carts full of stuff. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,
Community

Berkeleyside will focus on homelessness Wednesday

SFHomeless_long_thumb
Print Friendly

On Wednesday, Berkeleyside will devote the entire day to stories about the homeless. We are joining 70 media organizations around the Bay Area to do a “deep dive” into the complex issue.

The group of newspapers, TV and radio stations, websites and community newspapers is calling the endeavor the San Francisco Homeless Project (since it was spearheaded by the San Francisco Chronicle). Through a series of articles, newscasts, photos, videos and opinion pieces, the project will explore the roots of homelessness, who the homeless are, how they survive, and what can be done to end homelessness.

Many of the stories will be published on a Chronicle page and one that Medium has set up.

Berkeleyside has a number of articles planned, including an overview of the issue, statistics about the homeless, a timeline of homelessness in Berkeley, a photo essay, and feature stories about homeless people and the agencies that serve them. We will also include responses to a questionnaire we posted. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,
Community

Share your questions about homelessness in Berkeley

Residents of a homeless encampment remain on the grounds of Old City Hall in what they say is a protest of new laws passed this week by the City Council. Photo: David Yee
Print Friendly

Dozens of Bay Area news organizations have joined forces to present stories on the homeless next week, and Berkeleyside is proud to be taking part. On June 29, more than 30 local media outlets have committed to sharing stories about homelessness, including possible solutions, profiles and more.

We wanted to check in with you, our readers, to find out what questions are most pressing for you. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or fill out the following Google form. Given the tight turnaround, we know we won’t be able to address everything. But your insights will help us shape our coverage going forward as we continue to delve into one of the most critical issues in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,