Tag Archives: Berkeley homelessness

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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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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Crime

Police make arrest after homeless camp stabbing

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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Berkeley police responded to a stabbing at the recently established Old City Hall homeless encampment and arrested a man late Thursday morning.

According to a post on the “First they came for the homeless” Facebook page, which has been documenting happenings and efforts at the camp, “Shortly before noon, one of the protesters was stabbed in the leg.… The incident occurred with no warning, and no provocation. The occupation rose up and quickly surrounded the man with the knife.”

The post, published at 12:15 p.m., continued: “They announced a citizens arrest. The man grabbed a stick and started attacking. We grabbed sticks, and without hitting him, defended themselves. The police, whose station is 100 feet away, took 5 minutes to respond.”

According to the post, the stabbing victim is in the hospital and police arrested the alleged assailant. The Berkeley Police Department was not able to respond to a request for information prior to publication. … Continue reading »

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Homeless man arrested after daytime robbery, attempted rape of UC Berkeley student

Image: Google Maps
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Police arrested a 51-year-old homeless man after the robbery and attempted rape of a UC Berkeley student Monday, authorities said.

The incident took place at 11:30 a.m., said Officer Jennifer Coats, Berkeley Police spokeswoman, when the female Cal student was walking near Arch and Virginia streets, not far from the northern border of campus.

Coats said the man, later identified as Wilfred Allen, “approached the victim from behind and pushed her off a public walkway into a secluded grassy area. The suspect pinned the victim on the ground and when the victim attempted to scream he covered her mouth and attempted to sexually assault her.”Continue reading »

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Berkeley council enacts street behavior regulations

Protesters fighting new ordinances related to street behavior marched to Tuesday night's council meeting and rallied. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Tuesday night’s council meeting ended abruptly with a split vote to adopt new laws proponents say will help clean up Berkeley streets and provide storage and improved restroom facilities for the homeless.

Opponents of the laws say they will criminalize the homeless and have been protesting their adoption after a preliminary vote in November. About 30 people marched from Old City Hall to Tuesday’s council meeting at Longfellow Middle School to oppose the laws. They first rallied at Liberty City, an encampment that has drawn dozens to Old City Hall in recent weeks to protest the new measures.

Three council members did not respond when asked to vote, in an apparent act of protest, amidst disruptions from the crowd and several attempts by two officials to change the order of the meeting agenda as the night wore on.

Read more coverage of homelessness in Berkeley.

Vice Mayor Linda Maio ran the meeting because Mayor Tom Bates could only attend by telephone due to a recent injury. Maio said the new laws will increase access to public restrooms and create new secured storage facilities for the homeless. She said warnings will be issued prior to any tickets, and that none of the rules related to the storage of personal items in public space will go into effect until the city has storage units to offer.

“They can still sit and they can still sleep,” she said. About the new rules, she added, “There has been so much misinformation about what they are.”Continue reading »

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