Homeless community protests Berkeley homeless services system

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Emilia Bulfone/Staff

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A tent city sits in the median at the intersection of Adeline and Ward streets in Berkeley, as members of the homeless community continue to protest the Hub — the city’s homeless services system for its alleged inefficiency in providing homeless Berkeley citizens with housing and other services.

The demonstration began last week when protesters set up tents outside the Hub’s office, according to mayoral candidate and protester Guy “Mike” Lee. After police cleared out the encampment last Friday, the protesters moved their tents to the median where they have remained since Monday.

The Hub was established in January of this year to replace the city’s prior system of providing homeless services, which involved funding a variety of different non-profit agencies, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. Chakko stated that the city switched to the new system because the former system had been confusing for some people who needed services and often resulted in people with the most need going without assistance.

The Hub is intended for those members of the homeless community who are most in need of services, such as those who suffer from chronic homelessness, disability or mental illness, according to Chakko.

Mike Zint, founder of First They Came for the Homeless, explained how a disabled homeless woman involved in the protest has not received housing from the Hub, despite her physical disability. Zint said he believes there to be a disconnect between the homeless and the Hub staff regarding their situation and the services they require.

“We’ve been snubbed by the Hub,” Lee said.

Lee alleged that the Hub has not been providing services, including the allocation of housing, to members of the homeless community and that the Hub has not notified them of other options available to them.

According to the Hub’s website, the organization matches homeless individuals with appropriate housing and provides services for navigating the housing process or gives referrals to other services depending on the level of need of the individual.

“Getting services to people who are homeless is not easy work,” Chakko said. “It takes repeated and sustained effort … to get them housing and things they need. The staff at Hub work very hard to deliver services that people need.”

According to Lee, many of the homeless individuals involved in the protest have tried to obtain housing through the Hub’s intake process but have not had their applications or paperwork processed. Chakko said that aspects of the Hub’s intake process, including the completion of paperwork, is required by the federal government in order for the Hub to receive funding.

Lee also complained that the Hub places some of the homeless in housing outside of Berkeley.

Former chair of the Berkeley Homeless Task Force Genevieve Wilson stated that the Hub is unable to provide housing in Berkeley due to the limited number of buildings available for housing in the city.

“The Hub is sort of stuck because they exist to help move people into housing, but they don’t build housing stock themselves,” Wilson said. “They can advocate for more housing stock but ultimately city has to get behind building more affordable housing.”

Zint stated that if the tent city is raided, they intend to continue their protest outside the homes of Mayor Tom Bates and the City Council members.

“Don’t deny us the ability to shelter ourselves,” Zint said.

Contact Sydney Fix at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.