City Council passes measures to address homelessness crisis at regular meeting

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Berkeley City Council approved a plan to aid and further discuss the homelessness crisis as well as a grant for bulletproof vans for the Berkeley Police Department at their regular Tuesday meeting.

The City Council amended and passed resolutions to tackle the homelessness crisis. The resolutions call for the activation of an emergency operations center and an ad hoc committee, which will explore long-term and short-term solutions to alleviate homelessness.

“All Berkeley citizens, housed and unhoused, share (the) desire to alleviate and resolve the issue of homelessness,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguin during the meeting.

After much discussion, the initially proposed emergency resolution to address the homelessness crisis was divided into separate motions for the EOC and the ad hoc committee. Parts of the original resolution addressing homelessness were passed separately — one to provide funding for two non-profits that support the city’s homeless population and the other to discuss options for a more accessible storage system for confiscated goods.

The EOC will put “address(ing) the immediate crisis on our streets” at the topmost priority of the city staff, according to the passed resolution.

“In the absence of housing and the absence of shelter solutions, we should do as much as we can to help folks remain in place while we work with them to get them connected to services and housing,” said Peter Radu, a Berkeley resident who studies encampments as a policy analyst with the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, during public comment.

Over 20 community members, including both homeless people and advocates, took part in a heated discussion about the housing resolution. Many spoke about the need for justice in light of recent raids on homeless encampments, which were ordered by City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley.

Williams-Ridley proposed activating the EOC during closed council discussion. Some community members present at the meeting were bothered by the lack of discussion of the plan.

The Council also passed a resolution that will allocate $80,000 of the city’s budget to purchase a reinforced bullet proof van for the Berkeley Police Department. Currently, BPD borrows armored vehicles from other agencies when called to scenes where suspects are allegedly armed, such as a drug bust.

During public comment, some community members expressed concern over what they called the increasing militarization of BPD, but council members assured the room that their first priority was protecting citizens.

“I want you to understand, council members and people in this room, that we take an oath to defend the people, and there’s many dimensions to that,” said Councilmember Ben Bartlett during the meeting.

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article misattributed a quote to Dan McDunn.