Berkeley residents express dissatisfaction with efforts to combat homelessness

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Grace Zhang/Staff

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As a community forum on homelessness drew to a close Monday night, a handful of attendees voiced disappointment about Berkeley City Council’s efforts to address issues affecting the local homeless population.

Councilmember Kate Harrison, who hosted the forum, said she wanted to engage the District 4 community in discussions about the city’s homeless population — which consists of about 1,000 individuals, according to data collected in January 2017 — and to outline the city’s current initiatives related to homelessness.

Topics addressed at the meeting included homeless encampment code of conduct, transitional housing programs and the rising costs of rent.

“There’s a direct correlation between the cost of living here and the inability of people on the margin to keep up with that,” said Peter Radu, secretary of the city’s Homeless Commission, at the meeting.

The city’s Health, Housing and Community Services Department presented data that indicate an 89 percent increase in average rent costs for apartments in Berkeley since 2011, as well as a 22 percent increase in average rent costs since 2016. Radu emphasized that homelessness in Berkeley is “overwhelmingly an economic issue.”

Homeless encampments were a primary source of discussion at the forum. Mayor Jesse Arreguín stated his desire for the city to be able to remove an encampment “at their discretion” if problematic behaviors or public health concerns arise. Arreguín added that the city would post eviction notices 72 hours in advance and allow encampment residents to attempt to fix their behavioral or health-related issues in order to avoid eviction.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn discussed the Pathways Project, which she referred to as a “comprehensive initiative to significantly reduce homelessness.” The project’s primary goals, according to Hahn, are preventing homelessness, increasing access to affordable housing and creating a path to permanent housing.

“We want to harness all our services, and when people engage with them, they’re on the path to being housed,” Hahn said. “That differs from a more fragmented system. … We’re trying to put the pieces of that pathway in place.”

Despite the city’s proclaimed efforts at the forum to combat homelessness, some attendees interrupted city officials to express their concerns about a lack of concrete action and a tendency to criminalize the homeless population.

Berkeley resident and homeless activist Guy “Mike” Lee, who attended the meeting, said, “There’s only a handful of us that actually stand up and fight these people.” Lee said he was upset by the city’s failure to address the management of homeless encampments and its focus on prohibited conduct rather than acceptable behavior among encampment residents.

“(The council members are) all good people,” said Carol Denney, a Berkeley resident who interrupted the forum. “They think they’re doing the right thing. But criminalization is not just ineffective. It’s expensive and it’s immoral. And they know better.”

Danielle Kaye is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.

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  • That Guy

    ““There’s a direct correlation between the cost of living here and the inability of people on the margin to keep up with that,” said Peter Radu” Total poverty pimp BS. It’s meant to imply that if rent was less than the local homeless would be living in apartments. If a two bedroom was $300/month these people would still not be able to live in one because they are either too crazy or spend all their money on dope.

  • I love Trump!!!

    I have a suggestion, why don’t all of you bleeding hearts take in a homeless man or woman into your home and the problem is solved!

    • Sam Spade

      Already do.

  • hoapres

    You also have to differentiate between good and bad homeless.

    If you are bad homeless being without economic value then at some point in the not too distant future you will be rounded up and sent to a concentration camp.

    If you are good homeless being economically valuable and likely homeless by choice saving up your money and blowing the clambake known as Silicon Valley then you will be tolerated for a while.

    Met a couple of union plumbers in Mountain View who were living on El Camino in Palo Alto sleeping in their cars. When I asked them how they were faring with the anti-homeless people known as the Palo Alto PD, go the response, “We told Google we are here to work on your buildings and not pay $3K+ a month for rent. We are working our butts off sending all the money back to the Midwest so we can own our houses out right for cash. Get the Palo Alto PD off our backs or we will simply go back to the Midwest and work. We won’t make as much money but if we pay your housing costs then we are no better off than coming out here in the first place”.

    The Palo Alto PD backed off.

    Amazing, how that works.

    • Sam Spade

      I have submitted a set of conduct guidelines to council and the community at large

    • Who are you to differentiate you between “good and bad homeless”. Shut up! No one made you God.

  • hoapres

    Companies need to move as well. Get rid of h1b Visas and then companies will move to India instead of bringing in Indians to the US keeping labor costs down.

    If that sounds simplistic then well it is because it is that simple.

    Tech wages haven’t gone up in real inflation adjusted dollars for decades.

    • Scott Jenner

      agree better to keep indians there then to flood america with them

  • iLove

    My kids went to U.C.Berkeley. It was such a prestigious college, however, there are so many homeless, and traffic and parking so congestion. It’s tough for residency who live there.

    • intec

      Irrelevant.

  • hoapres

    If you can’t afford to live here then move.

    • Sam Spade

      If you cant say something inteligent be quiet

      • WeggieBacon

        Misspelling intelligent kinda undermines your point, Mike Lee.

        • Sam Spade

          But you are smart enough to know what i mean.

      • hoapres

        I did.

        • Sam Spade

          Being a hater is not inteligent.

          • hoapres

            Hate has nothing to do with this. Most facts are brutal. If you aren’t making $150K+ a year then from a financial point of view living in the Bay Area is a BIG mistake.

          • intec

            Right to live in Berkeley regardless of income bracket. Go away.

          • I love Trump!!!

            Gosh sam spade tell us what a hater is.