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