A fence with spiked edges has been built around the Here There sculpture on Adeline Street in order to keep people away from the nearby BART tracks, but some homeless activists see the fence as an attack on the homeless community that previously inhabited the space.
In November, homeless community members living on the piece of land next to the Here There sculpture at Adeline and 63rd streets were evicted by BART. Homeless residents were forced to relocate and a temporary fence was put up around the area.
On Saturday, homeless activist group First They Came for the Homeless, the organizer of the encampment, noted on its Facebook page that a new fence with spiked edges had been put up around the area.
BART spokesperson Jim Allison said in an email that the fence was installed in order to replace temporary fencing that had been in the area since the fall. According to Allison, BART and the city of Berkeley agreed on the style of the fence and its installation and have been working together for the past six months on issues related to the area.
“The fence is designed to protect BART’s right of way. Because the area is immediately adjacent to the BART tracks, we are obliged to ensure that the tracks and the trains that travel upon them are safe,” Allison said. “Fencing off this area ensures that people are not able to walk up to the area where the tracks descend underground.”
Mike Zint, founder of First They Came for the Homeless, said in an email that the fence wouldn’t have any effect on the homeless because most of the homeless have already moved from the area to other locations. Zint said, however, that he believes the fence is a waste of money that could have been used to house the homeless.
“I can say the city should be extremely upset. Not just over the installation, but in the tips at the top of it. They are designed to hurt anyone climbing the fence,” Zint alleged in his email.
In April 2016, the United States Postal Service installed a 6-foot tall metal fence at its Downtown Berkeley post office, restricting access to a sidewalk area formerly occupied by a homeless encampment.
On Jan. 19, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that First They Came for the Homeless could sue the city of Berkeley for allegedly punishing and silencing the group for criticizing city policy.
Chair of the Homeless Commission Carole Marasovic submitted a report to City Council on behalf of the Homeless Commission asking the city to provide First They Came for the Homeless a long-term location in Berkeley for the group’s encampment. The recommendation is scheduled to be discussed Feb. 13.
“Expending City resources to break up (First They Came for the Homeless) and shuffle them around serves no solution when there is insufficient housing,” the report said. “If the group were to be successfully dismantled, it would only leave a number of homeless persons scattered … instead of a group of people aspiring towards a model structure and sharing resources and support among themselves.”