At a time of relative economic upswing, coupled with growing concerns about the displacement of low-income populations, it is troubling that the city of Berkeley would propose cuts to extremely valuable nonprofits that serve homeless, low-income youth and the mentally ill.
The proposal has already garnered opposition from community members, sparking protest at last week’s City Council meeting and a community petition against the cuts. As written, the proposed budget would cut funding to agencies such as the Berkeley Drop-In Center; Youth Spirit Artworks, or YSA; and the East Bay Community Law Center.
The populations these organizations serve already suffer from a lack of available resources — yet these programs provide services that help improve the well-being of many Berkeley residents every day.
Programs such as YSA, an art-jobs training program for low-income youth in Berkeley, will lose all of their city funding if the budget proposal is approved as is. But the program plays an important role in the lives of many. As 16-year-old Jada Carter noted in an interview with The Daily Californian, YSA gives young people a space outside their poverty where they can rediscover their own “self-worth.”
It is notable that overall funding in 2016 for services for the homeless has increased 12 percent in the budget proposal. Funding for youth and seniors programs, however, has decreased by 4 and 23 percent, respectively.
Nonetheless, reduced funding for crucial services such as YSA and the Berkeley Drop-In Center would not only negatively impact populations most in need of the city’s attention and support but would also contribute to the growing sense that the city is more interested in making investments that produce monetary rather than social returns.
Last year, the city won a planning grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that will be used to plan the revamp of the Adeline Corridor — an area reaching from Dwight Way to Oakland’s border.
During the past few decades, patches of elitism have appeared across the diverse surface of Berkeley. The Elmwood, Fourth Street and Gourmet Ghetto areas have all been transformed into upscale communities singularly unattainable to lower-income populations. Many believe the Adeline Corridor project promises a similar transformation, possibly revealing a trend toward gentrification and the shunning of already-oppressed groups from areas made more desirable to those with higher incomes.
But Berkeley is not a business, and its main concern should be the welfare of its citizens, especially those who do not have the resources or ability to advocate for themselves. Continued investment in the city’s nonprofit programs — especially in those benefitting youth — may not benefit the city financially. Funding the programs will, however, produce a future Berkeley colored by the diversity of ideas and people who have always made the city unique.
Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.