A homeless encampment near Berkeley Bowl was dismantled by Berkeley police and city officials at about 5:00 a.m. Wednesday — the twelfth disbandment to occur in a series of disbandments and relocations that began in October, according to homeless activist Guy “Mike” Lee.
According to Lee, both Berkeley Police Department officers and officials from the Parks and Recreation department were present at the dismantling of the encampment, which was located on the median at the intersection of Oregon and Adeline streets. Lee alleged that police and officials tore down tents and also took possession of four of the encampment’s larger tents.
According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, the city stores property that is left abandoned or unattended and makes it available for residents to retrieve. The encampment residents relocated to the site of the previous City Hall on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, where they were again disbanded around 9:00 a.m. There were no arrests.
“The city is picking on homeless people at Christmas time,” Lee said. “This is our Christmas present from the city of Berkeley.”
The encampment, organized by the homeless advocacy group First They Came for the Homeless, has repeatedly been disbanded by police and city officials for violating California Municipal Code 647(e), which prohibits lodging in a place without the permission of the owner, and Berkeley Municipal Code 14.32.040, which states that it is unlawful to reside on a divisional island.
“That particular location is not a safe place to be, in the middle of a median with multiple lanes of traffic,” Chakko said. Chakko added that the city has received multiple complaints about behavior at the encampment.
Lee stated that about 12 to 15 community members who attempted to assist disabled residents of the encampment during the first disbandment were prevented from crossing police lines. Sally Hindman, executive director at Youth Spirit Artworks, was detained by police when she approached the scene to provide assistance and informed officers that she had come to support the homeless, according to Lee.
According to Chakko, encampment residents received more than 24 hours’ notice to move before the disbandment Wednesday morning, and city outreach staff frequently visit the encampment to offer space in the city’s shelters.
Hindman stated that activists are looking to identify locations in Berkeley for two tiny house villages as a solution to the lack of available shelter and continued disbanding of the encampment.
“The arrests of First They Came For The Homeless will definitely stop if we can locate a site where the FTCFTH encampment can go,” Hindman said in an email. “We don’t need a Berkeley ‘Festival of Ideas’ to determine that an approved site is one obvious solution to the current dilemma faced by FTCFTH and all of us who care about our neighbors.”