The co-chair of the Berkeley Homeless Task Force, Genevieve Wilson, presented the group’s Tier One recommendations at the Berkeley Homeless Commission meeting Wednesday, which included a request that UC Berkeley’s campus make its restrooms more accessible to the homeless community.
Wilson also recommended that the city expand its Homeless Outreach Team and Mobile Crisis Team, fund increased Crisis Intervention Training for police officers, establish additional secure storage space and create additional warming and rain-day respite centers during the winter months.
Wilson urged the Homeless Commission to coordinate with the city manager in developing a review that explores the costs and feasibility of implementing these recommendations. Jesse Arreguin, District 4 council member, plans to submit the recommendations to City Council at its meeting Nov. 3.
The commission agreed to read through the recommendations in more detail and vote at its next meeting on which to submit to City Council.
The lack of public restrooms in Berkeley in conjunction with the ordinances that prohibit public urination leave the homeless community with no choice but to break the law, Wilson said.
According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email, UC Berkeley buildings and their bathrooms are available to the public, including the homeless, whenever they are open. Doe Library, one such space, is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays.
Arreguin suggested that UC Berkeley make its restrooms more accessible by expanding building hours and publicizing that its restrooms are available for public use.
At the commission meeting, Wilson also suggested that UC Berkeley work toward a “culture shift” in its attitude toward the homeless.
“There’s been feedback that the campus hasn’t been particularly friendly towards homeless people,” Wilson said.
She recounted that while administering a survey for the Homeless Action Center, one homeless man alleged that he was chased off of the campus by a UCPD officer for exercising there.
Councilmember Arreguin explained that while he had not heard of the campus discriminating against the homeless, he thought that the homeless community feels generally “unwelcome” in the Berkeley community.
“(Homelessness) is something that students that go to UC Berkeley see on a daily basis when they’re walking Downtown on Shattuck and it’s an issue that affects an entire community,” Arreguin said. “So it’s something that everybody as a community needs to come together to tackle.”
But he stressed that the best way to resolve the problem would be for the city to invest in the construction of more public restrooms. The recommendations he plans to submit next month also request that BART re-open restrooms in its Berkeley stations and that the city offer incentives for downtown businesses to allow public access to restrooms.