Tag Archives: Berkeley homelessness

Homeless encampment moved from Civic Center steps to corner across from Berkeley High School

Mike Zint, of First They Came for the Homeless, sits in a tent on the lawn at City Hall after an encampment was removed from the steps, in Berkeley, on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. Photo: David Yee ©2016
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The homeless encampment that was removed early Friday morning from Adeline Street was moved again this morning. This time, the shift was from the steps of Berkeley’s Civic Center building on Milvia Street to the corner of Milvia and Allston Way, directly across from Berkeley High School.

At lunchtime on Monday, the homeless encampment consisted of eight tents and possessions on the small patch of grass on the northwest corner of Allston and Milvia.

The encampment on the Civic Center steps had lasted from Friday to early on Monday. Berkeley police removed the encampment at around 5 a.m.

“This is not an acceptable place to camp,” said City of Berkeley spokesperson Matthai Chakko. “We’re working with them to make sure they understand that. What we try to do with our services is get people into shelter.”  … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Open letter to Mayor, City Council about homelessness in Berkeley

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Dear Mayor Bates and Berkeley City Council members,

Once again, as winter approaches, Berkeley is confronted with the inadequacy of our efforts to address the issues confronting our homeless population. In the absence of significant progress, the city has once again turned to police action, confronting and dispersing homeless encampments that have often been established as vehicles of protest.

I have a few observations to make, none of which are in any way original, many of which have been made … Continue reading »

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Police roust homeless camp; activists vow to return

Berkeley police arrest Nanci Armstrong-Temple on Nov. 4. The Alameda County District Attorney declined to press charges.  Photo: Paul Blake
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Early Friday morning, Berkeley police dismantled an encampment that had been set up on Adeline Street to protest the way the city provides homeless services.

A contingent of police officers came to the intersection of Adeline and Fairview around 5 a.m. and forced the 30 or so people sleeping on the pavement to get up and out.

The nature of the interaction is in dispute, with many homeless people saying they were rousted without warning, manhandled, even injured, and their stuff was thrown indiscriminately into the back of a truck. A city spokesman disagreed with that characterization and said the encampment had received two previous warnings to pack up and leave, and that police were respectful. In addition, said Matthai Chakko, the tents, blankets, sleeping bags and other belongings that were collected were bagged and tagged. The city’s homeless outreach worker was on the scene to help facilitate a return of those items to their owners, he said.

Following the early-morning incident, Berkeley Police issued a Nixle alert around 12:20 p.m. to say there was “a civic demonstration in the area of northbound MLK north of Ashby.” They advised motorists to use caution.

Four people were arrested Friday morning. (See below for details)  Nanci Armstrong-Temple, who is running for City Council in District 2, appears to be one of those who was taken into custody. She came to the scene shortly after the raid commenced, part of a group of allies of the homeless who are contacted via an e-tree or phone tree when an action is imminent, according to Mike Lee, who is running for mayor.

“They were slamming women to the ground,” said Mike Zint, an activist who was one of the leaders of Liberty City, an encampment set up in front of Old City Hall. “It’s horrible what they did. They specifically targeted Nanci. Also Andrea Prichett.” (Prichett is a founding member of Copwatch.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeleyside wins SPJ journalism award for comprehensive homelessness coverage

Homeless person sleeps on Berkeley street. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Earlier this year, Berkeleyside joined more than 80 other media organizations in the Bay Area to publish a day of stories focused on homelessness in our midst.

Monday, that coverage was recognized by the NorCal chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as part of its 31st Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards.

Berkeleyside’s Frances Dinkelspiel and Emilie Raguso won in the explanatory journalism category, in the small division for print media outlets, “for their comprehensive coverage of homelessness in Berkeley using data and effective storytelling to identify problems, seek answers and analyze proposed solutions.”

Dinkelspiel and Raguso created eight in-depth stories that ran sequentially June 29 over a period of about seven hours as part of the San Francisco Homeless Project.

The SF Homeless Project to which Berkeleyside contributed also took home the contest’s Public Service Award: “Participating media organizations collaborated to publish and broadcast during one week in June more than 300 stories about various aspects of homelessness and efforts to address them. The SF Homeless Project is a sign of a new era in journalism in which news outlets join their forces to fight for a better society,” wrote the judges. A follow-up day of coverage is being planned for December. … Continue reading »

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

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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 »

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Community

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
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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 »

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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
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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 »

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Crime

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
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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 »

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Community

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
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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 »

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Berkeley Library to host panel on homelessness Saturday

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

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Man charged after attack, threats outside police station

Berkeley Police station. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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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 »

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Crime

Man charged after aluminum bat attack in Berkeley

Zuber Awad. Photo: ACSO
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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 »

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

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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 »

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