City disbands homeless occupation near Old City Hall

Ericka Shin/Staff

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Berkeley city staff disbanded a homeless occupation near Old City Hall on Friday morning, making three arrests in the process.

Around 7:30 a.m., city staff — including members from the Berkeley Police Department, city Environmental Health division and the Parks Recreation and Waterfront division — removed the belongings of individuals from the vicinity, citing health and safety concerns as reasons for disbandment.

Sharde Annette Davis, Casey Hosier and Michael Zint were all arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct by allegedly occupying a space without the permission of the owner, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

Chakko, however, added that when city staff asked individuals to clear the premises, people were cooperative.

Earlier Thursday morning, BPD also responded to a stabbing at the encampment. The suspect arrested was 53-year-old Jerry Ziegler, according to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats.

A main worry came from the deteriorating environmental health conditions in the encampment, with the presence of as feces, urine, rat burrows and needles in the area, according to Chakko.

Mike Wilson, an organizer with Berkeley Post Office Defenders who was present at the occupation during the disbandment, said the homeless people in the area were told to remove their belongings or they would be confiscated, and to leave or face possible arrest.

Chakko said the city had given the community four prior notices to vacate the space, but Henry Yoder, one of the people affected by the disbandment, alleged that the notices were distributed illegally.

According to Yoder, the four notices were not given to every single property, but rather, only to one person to distribute to the whole community.

During the dispersal, Yoder said some people picked up their belongings and moved to the other side of the street, while others stayed behind.

“Me, for example, I was just walking around,” Yoder said. “I was just waiting for the last minute. I’m like, ‘You’re not violating my constitutional right.’ ”

Yoder added that he and his peers were protesting against the contentious ordinance passed by City Council regulating street behavior.

As a compromise for the ordinance, however, the council plans to provide storage spaces and shower facilities for the homeless.

“(City Council has) made promises about storage units and public bathrooms and public shower facilities, but they’ve made no plans and allotted nothing from the budget to secure those things,” Wilson said.

According to Chakko, the city is reaching out to the homeless community to provide “the full range of services for people to move off of the streets, into stable living situations.” But Chakko noted these offers were often not being taken up.

“We can offer services (but) we can’t force anybody to use services,” Chakko said.

By 10:30 a.m. Friday, city staff had set up a fence around the empty area and were hosing down the premises.

Staff writer Suhauna Hussain contributed to this report.

Contact Ericka Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ericka_shin