Tag Archives: Berkeley homelessness

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
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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 »

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Community

Authorities clear out Gilman homeless camp in Berkeley

A homeless couple sleeps as Berkeley city officials watch Berkeley and Caltrans work crews clear out a homeless encampment near the Gilman Street interchange of I-80, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 16, 2016. Photo: David Yee
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In a coordinated effort, workers from Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and the city of Berkeley cleared out a large homeless encampment on Gilman Street near the I-80 freeway on Thursday.

It’s the latest chapter in a struggle that has been going on for years between homeless denizens who have set up their tents on Gilman in West Berkeley, and authorities who say the squalid conditions that result cannot be left unchecked.

Jim Hynes, with the Berkeley city manager’s office, said homeless outreach, city maintenance crews, mental health workers and environmental health staff were all on the scene to help out. He estimated that five containers of syringes, some 250 needles, had been removed, along with numerous bottles of human urine.

“It’s not a pretty sight, that’s for sure,” he said.  … Continue reading »

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And the survey says: Berkeley is on the right track

Berkeley has a critical housing shortage and needs new developments, writes Mayor Tom Bates in an op-ed published on Berkeleyside. Seen here: a proposed building on San Pablo Avenue. Image: HKIT Architects
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Affordable housing and homelessness topped the list on a survey of concerns voiced by Berkeley voters polled last week.

Most respondents, 64%, said the city is heading in the right direction, with 62% describing city services as good or excellent, and another 30% as “fair.”

The polling firm was hired by the city to survey 500 voters by phone to test the waters for possible November 2016 ballot measures. The city posted a quick summary of those results this week, and plans to look more closely at them during the April 5 Berkeley City Council meeting.

The Berkeley-based firm Lake Research Partners called registered voters from March 13-17 and questioned those who said they were likely to vote in November.

Top priorities of respondents included affordable housing (22%), homelessness (17%), improving education and schools (14%), and reducing crime (11%). … Continue reading »

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Berkeley homeless activist Frances Townes celebrates her 100th birthday and a day named in her honor

Frances Townes blows out the candles on her birthday cake. Townes turned 100 and Berkeley named Feb. 13 Frances Townes Day in honor of her community involvement.
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At age 70, most people are looking forward to retiring, traveling, or enjoying a slower pace of life. When Frances Townes reached that milestone, she founded the Berkeley Ecumenical Chaplaincy to the Homeless and opened a new chapter in what continues to be a life of activism and advocacy for people who are homeless in Berkeley.

Thirty years later, dozens of people packed into the First Congregational Church in Berkeley on Feb. 13 to celebrate Towne’s 100th birthday, as well as the first-ever official Frances Townes Day in the City of Berkeley. Friends, family, and community members shared memories from different chapters of Townes’ life of social justice work, as Townes laughed and listened alongside on stage. And, fittingly for a life of 10 decades devoted to helping people, her 100th birthday party doubled as fundraiser and silent auction for Youth Spirit Artworks, an arts and job training program for homeless and low-income youth.

“With more activists like Frances, we’d have a stronger, more stable Berkeley,” said Angel Peréz, a senior artist and print-tech at Youth Spirit Artworks, adding that he was inspired by Towne’s determination in her activism throughout her life — even at difficult times. … Continue reading »

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Huge price tag projected for homeless storage bin plan

Bates wants the city council to adopt a zoning overlay to protect historic buildings in the civic center area, like Veterans' Memorial Hall. He admits he hopes the push will undermine support for a Downtown Green Initiative scheduled for November ballot. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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An innovative program to offer secure storage containers for the possessions of Berkeley’s homeless could cost nearly $350,000 a year in staffing, along with $50,000 in start-up costs.

Interim City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley provided the City Council with the estimates in a Feb. 26 memo that has been posted on the city website.

Read more coverage of homelessness in Berkeley.

The storage program must be in place before the city can begin enforcing a slate of other new rules designed to clean up Berkeley’s sidewalks and limit problematic behavior on them. Advocates for the homeless have said the laws will only serve to criminalize the community’s most vulnerable and downtrodden. Council voted to approve the new rules in December.

According to the memo, the city is looking at a six-month pilot program at 1931 Center St.: “The plan is to re-open the lockers currently located behind the Veteran’s Building and to add a structure in the same location to house an additional fifty (50) 64-gallon storage containers.”

The area would be secured, and staff would be on site daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to allow access. The city says it is also looking at additional sites “to ensure we locate the program in the most appropriate place.” … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Berkeley latest homelessness recommendations are a lackluster response to a true emergency

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On Tuesday the Berkeley City Council was presented with a report from the Homeless Task Force, with recommendations for action to address homelessness in the city. Leaving aside the likelihood or unlikelihood of any of the recommendations passing, for a Task Force whose self-stated goal is “ending homelessness in our city”, the report is notable for a lack of urgency on the core issue: HOUSING.

Tier 1 recommendations included expanding outreach and crisis intervention initiatives, and expanding access to winter shelter … Continue reading »

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Berkeley finds fund to expand homeless services during wet weather

Volunteers from Night on the Streets Catholic Worker serve food to the homeless. Photo: Matt Werner
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Berkeley’s homeless population will now have more places to take shelter from the inclement weather after city officials directed extra funds to extend and expand shelter and outreach services.

The city has committed to opening a new overnight emergency shelter at the North Berkeley Senior Center and is working to expand the hours at two daytime drop-in centers, according to Councilwoman Linda Maio, who worked with an ad hoc group of homeless advocates in recent days to develop the plan (the updated list of city homeless services is here).

The extra effort means that there will be beds available the next few nights, including Christmas, according to JC Orton of Night on the Streets Catholic Worker, which runs a shelter during inclement weather. The First Congregational Church has agreed to open its doors on Christmas night, which it had not originally planned to do, said Orton. Berkeley is also opening the North Berkeley Senior Center tonight and Sunday for people to sleep in.

“The city came to the rescue,” said Orton. “The First Congregational Church came to the rescue.”  … Continue reading »

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Homeless man plans community carol sing-along

Eugene featured
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By Maddie Greene

“I’ll be home for Christmas” promises the song, but not everyone has a home for the holidays. Berkeley’s Eugene Green, 55 and technically homeless, loves Christmas so much that he’s bringing the celebration to him this year. While others were still considering their Halloween costumes, Green was planning a community singalong scheduled to take place Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. near his Southwest Berkeley tent.

“I’m working on making a happy place for people to come and sing carols and feel the Christmas spirit,” said Green.

A 17-year Berkeley resident, Green has made a dead-end street not far from the Aquatic Park his home for two years. In that time he’s charmed a significant portion of his neighborhood. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on bike sharing, PRC protest report, homeless services, housing

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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It may be another late night for the Berkeley City Council, which has two meetings Tuesday night set to include more than 60 agenda items. At 5:30 p.m., there’s a special session on the city’s economic profile, as well as updates from state Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond. For the regular 7:30 p.m. meeting, there are 19 items on the action calendar alone. There’s a public hearing on a new bike sharing program the city hopes to launch, council consideration of the Police Review Commission’s look into last year’s protests, a proposal to add homeless services to what the city already offers, and several council proposals related to living wages and housing. The latest five-year paving plan is also on the agenda, along with a resolution from the Peace and Justice Commission to end drone warfare. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: An open letter to City Council on homelessness

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Let me begin this brief note by first setting aside all the bitterness and anger I feel towards recent actions you have taken against me personally as a member of the homeless community. I am commanded to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 5:1) and this I shall attempt to do.

Before you tonight are two very important agenda items. The first is declaring … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: A night in Berkeley’s Liberty City

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I wanted to camp at least once at Liberty City when I learned how it had formed, partly because I wanted to see what was really up, and partly because I wanted to meet the participants I had heard so much about, and partly because I had been hidden homeless two years, myself, and the things bound up in protest resonated strongly with my own sentiments while I was without permanent housing in Berkeley. So I borrowed a sleeping bag and mat from a friend, and I headed over to check things out after letting a few people know I was coming.

When I arrived I was warmly welcomed. A couple people toured me around the demonstration and explained its boundaries: there was a set of people directly affiliated with the protest, and then there were others who were not for a variety of reasons. A speed dealer and his junkies had been moved on. Word had been put out about that to make it clear that the protest itself was to remain within legal bounds. There was a table with food where the community’s meals were served, and various members routinely made sweeps for trash. Decisions were being made by consensus through a general assembly Liberty City had itself set up.

Not long after I arrived, one of the protesters who had oriented me offered me a tarp for the ground, and then after some thought, my own tent for the night. He said he’d feel better about my safety in a tent. I told him I appreciated the offer, but then after some conversation and thought, that I used to sleep in a bivouac when camping and so felt content on the ground. After that, someone put on a documentary film and it began to get colder, so I decided to go to bed. Others were turning in as well. I think it might have been 8 or 9 pm. I had left my cell phone at home. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Homeless man arrested after Berkeley bank robbery

Union Bank was robbed Tuesday. Image: Google Maps
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Berkeley police officers recovered the cash after arresting a homeless man they said was responsible for robbing a bank late Tuesday morning.

According to police, Barrett Brown was not armed but instead used a note to demand money from a teller at the downtown Berkeley Union Bank located at 2333 Shattuck Ave., at Durant Avenue.

Police described Brown, who is 35, as transient.

Bank staff called in the robbery report to police dispatchers at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, said Lt. Jennifer Louis, dayshift watch commander. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley homeless encampment at Old City Hall packs up under city orders

Dismantling Liberty camp on Friday Dec. 4. Photo Jay Rooney
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Update: Three arrests were made while the encampment was packing up, according to Berkeley city spokesman Matthai Chakko. Chakko said he expected all three to be cited and released today.

Three truck-loads of belongings associated with the camp were removed by the city, he said, and services were offered to the campers.

Campers were told where they could collect their belongings, Chakko said. City workers arrived at the camp at 7:30 a.m. and the camp was all cleared out by 10:30 a.m.

By noon the city had erected a temporary fence around the space where the encampment had been. A sign on the fence reads: “Lawn are under renovation. Please keep out. Thanks for your patience. City of Berkeley Parks.”

According to Ted Friedman who was on scene, some of the campers have moved across the street to Civic Center Park.

View a gallery of photos of the eviction taken by Ted Friedman.Continue reading »

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