Tag Archives: Berkeley homelessness

Berkeley orders new homeless tent city to disband

About 50 people have sent up tents on the front lawn of Old City Hall to protest news homeless laws passed by the City Council. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The city of Berkeley issued a cease and desist order Tuesday to residents of an encampment that popped up at Old City Hall on Nov. 16 in reaction to new homeless laws the city is seeking to enact.

The memo, distributed by police to about 50 people living in the approximately 22 tents on the front lawn, cites that penal code section 647(e) prohibits anyone from lodging on public property without permission of the property owner. The offense is a misdemeanor.

“Lodging on the property of 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way is not permitted,” reads the order. “Please take this opportunity to immediately collect your belongings and leave this location.”

But the order seems to have been met with a big yawn by those camping out, many of whom identified themselves as homeless or advocates for the homeless.

“It’s not an encampment, it’s a protest,” said a 29-year-old woman who identified herself as Musik Street Ninja. She said she is from Berkeley but currently has a room in which to sleep in Antioch. “We are protesting the bullshit homeless laws they are trying to pass.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: An open letter to Berkeley on homelessness: You are being scammed by the City Council

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Do storage lockers magically appear on Tom Bates’ order? Do angels from on high descend with public restrooms on Linda Maio’s wish? Is it common for shower facilities to construct themselves from piping and tile without human intervention?

If you answered “yes” to these questions then you’ve entered the mindset of the Berkeley City Council majority — who last week voted to criminalize homeless people’s behavior while invoking the humanitarian fairy to do what they claim they want to … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Being poor is not a crime

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates was quoted on Channel 7 News as saying, “It’s not an effort to criminalize people, it’s an effort to try to make things more civil.”

Yet the new homeless ordinance that passed 6-3 early Wednesday – nearly one week before Thanksgiving Day – does in fact criminalize the homeless and poor in Berkeley. It prohibits specific acts associated with being homeless, disabled and mentally ill in Berkeley, which include the following:

Placing personal belongings in … Continue reading »

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Berkeley imposes new laws on homeless behavior

Homeless advocates held a rally outside city council chambers on Tuesday night to call attention to proposed laws they said would criminalize the homeless. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council passed a series of measures early Wednesday morning to address issues raised by the behavior of some members of the homeless population, including a new rule that will limit the amount of space on which people can spread their stuff on the sidewalk.

Under the new law — which won’t go into effect immediately — people on sidewalks or plazas will have to confine their belongings to a 2-by-2-foot area between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. This does not include cushions or dogs.

To make this work, council pledged to provide convenient and secure storage bins in which homeless people can store their possessions. The new rules will kick in only after the city installs the bins. Berkeley has not yet determined where they might go and how many there will be, although there will be 50 to 100 to start. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Support the recommendations of the Homeless Task Force

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​Time and again, Berkeley voters have made it clear that they reject the criminalization of the homeless, many of whom are veterans suffering from mental trauma and LGBT youth kicked out of their homes because of who they love.

Do you think these people should be considered criminals simply for living in our community? I don’t. There are real solutions to get many of Berkeley’s homeless off the streets and on the road to a better life.

What some of … Continue reading »


Op-ed: New homeless proposal accelerates ethnic and social cleansing

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It is zero hour for the defense of the right of homeless people in Berkeley to simply be.

This Tuesday, Mayor Bates and Council members Maio, Droste, and Capitelli are proposing, for the nth time in 25 years, to add new status offenses to the docket. These new “crimes” will result in fines and jail time. While the City cannot explicitly ban poor people or homelessness, it will outlaw actions that are symptomatic of these conditions, such as owning … Continue reading »


Council battle brews over street behavior, homelessness

Mike Lee, right, a homeless activist, said during a demonstration Monday that he won't be pushed out of Berkeley on charges that make no sense. At left, Councilman Jesse Arreguin,  and Michael Diehl, of B.O.S.S. center, another advocate for the homeless. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Tuesday night, advocates for the homeless are set to duke it out with supporters of more stringent standards for behavior on Berkeley sidewalks over three items on the City Council agenda related to those living on the streets.

The item that has generated the most controversy, from Council members Linda Maio, Laurie Capitelli, Lori Droste and Mayor Tom Bates, prohibits going to the bathroom in public; limits the use of public space for the storage of personal items; and outlaws lying down inside planter beds or on planter walls.

Read more coverage of homelessness in Berkeley.

Advocates for the homeless have said the proposal will criminalize those on the street, who have few alternatives to their current behavior and need additional services, as well as assistance finding affordable housing. Advocates have been demonstrating since 6 a.m. Monday with a prayer circle, fasting and a “sleep out” in solidarity with the homeless Monday night. A rally and speak out is also planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday before the 7 p.m. council meeting at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Proponents of Item 28, to “Improve Conditions On Our Community Sidewalks,” say the city must act now to make the streets safer for everyone. The item does not outlaw sitting on the sidewalk during the day or sleeping on the sidewalk at night. Its supporters say the item creates a “few basic rules to set the standard for acceptable behavior.”

The item would direct the city to fund the purchase of 50-100 secure storage bins for the homeless, provide additional bathrooms on Telegraph Avenue and downtown — possibly in conjunction with BART, and provide mobile showers for public use. The bathrooms would be accessible 24/7. The new services are estimated to cost at least $300,000 annually. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Striking a balance for the homeless in Berkeley

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I’ve been a resident of Berkeley for the last decade, and there is no doubt the homeless problem is getting worse, despite the best efforts of our elected officials.

Both of my elementary school-age children and I have been verbally and physically threatened in the last month walking to school or on our way to College Avenue. Neighbors have shared their frustration at leaving home in the morning and finding human feces in their driveway. Reports of aggressive behavior and … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Let’s share responsibility for welcoming sidewalks

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Criminalizing homelessness is not a Berkeley value, nor is turning away those who have nowhere else to go. Sadly, unless more communities come to embrace our values, Berkeley will continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of the regional and national homelessness crisis. Unable to end homelessness on our own, how can Berkeley balance being a compassionate host with “house rules” that keep our city safe and livable?

The quality of our public spaces and the basic dignity of homeless individuals … Continue reading »

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Ohlone Park neighbors brainstorm about homeless influx

Ohlone Park, Oct. 24, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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More than 100 people crowded into the North Berkeley Senior Center on Saturday to strategize about how to address problematic behavior in Ohlone Park linked largely to the area’s growing nomadic homeless population.

According to a gardener at the park who wrote a letter to Councilwoman Linda Maio, who organized Saturday’s meeting, “The park is daily becoming a camp ground, strewn with trash, monopolized by groups of ‘street people’ and their animals. They add a threatening element that scares off older residents and families with children who no longer feel safe in the park.”

According to the gardener, dogs visiting the park have become ill after ingesting drugs left by campers. The gardener reported seeing a man smoking crack while children played nearby, as well as the open selling of drugs. There have also been fights involving some of the campers, and an increase in bike thefts and home burglaries in the neighborhood. Other community members noted what appears to be the presence of bike “chop shops” in various areas of the park.

Wrote the gardener: “In the park these ‘campers’ unload their stuff, spread it all around, build structures, sleep there with their stuff strewn all over the place, leaving piles of garbage behind.… I have personally picked up needles, used condoms, pot, pills, roaches, pornography, alcohol bottles & tops, food trash, used clothing, suitcases, furniture dragged over from the street, used toilet paper, a Seattle bank account statement of closure for insufficient funds, sleeping bags, ratty blankets, cardboard, tarps, you name it.” … Continue reading »

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Ohlone Park concerns prompt meeting Saturday

Community members have been reporting a range of problems at Ohlone Park recently. Photo: Citizen reporter
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City officials, parks and homeless outreach staff, police and community members will come together Saturday to discuss a range of problems that have cropped up recently at Berkeley’s Ohlone Park.

Councilwoman Linda Maio organized the meeting, which will focus on the increasing impacts of the park’s growing homeless population and concerns about youth gathering at night in the park, as well as issues that have been raised regarding smoking in the park near fire-prone areas and worries about litter.

The park runs along Hearst Avenue from Sacramento Street to Milvia Street.

In an Oct. 16 notice about the meeting, Maio wrote: “In recent weeks a number of email messages have reached me voicing various concerns about our much-loved Ohlone Park. It’s time to meet together to talk about our park. We will share observations, concerns and thoughts with each other, about its entire stretch … and develop approaches to improve the Ohlone Park.”

Maio said she’s hoping the meeting will prompt local residents to create a “friends” group that could help galvanize plans for improvements at the park, including the revival of the “historic monkey bars” near Grant Street. Members of community group Berkeley Partners for Parks also will be in attendance to help strategize about how to move forward. … Continue reading »

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IKEA donates ‘makeover’ to shelter for homeless families

The "after" picture of a living room at BOSS furnished with Ikea furniture.
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The families living in the McKinley Family Transitional House in Berkeley now have a lovely space from which to plot their move out from homelessness.

IKEA, the Scandinavian furniture store with an outlet in Emeryville, recently donated $10,000 worth of furniture and design services to McKinley House, located at 2111 McKinley Ave. in central Berkeley. The home, which is operated by BOSS, or Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, won the IKEA Life Improvement Challenge.

Now the living room has a comfortable blue plaid couch, lamps, a desk and shelving area, and new art on the wall. The bedrooms have wood dressers, beds and throw rugs. There is also new outdoor furniture on the lawn.

McKinley House is hosting an open house today from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to show off the redecorated facility.  … Continue reading »

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Woman arrested after punching passer-by in the face

Berkeley police cruiser (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A homeless woman police say punched a passer-by in the head without provocation, and injured an officer who tried to detain her, has been arrested in Berkeley for at least the fourth time since March.

Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said Dawn Carraway, 25, caused non-life-threatening injuries to the 66-year-old Berkeley woman she attacked.

The incident happened at 4:35 p.m. Tuesday when the victim was walking near Allston Way and Milvia Street in downtown Berkeley.

“As she was walking the suspect punched the victim without provocation,” said Coats. … Continue reading »

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