The body of a homeless woman was discovered Saturday near a building located across from Berkeley High School.
While walking in the backlot of his property located at 2214 Martin Luther King Jr. Way about 10:15 a.m., Tom White, co-owner of Rockhead and Quarry LLC, encountered what initially looked like a pile of clothes under a tree. Upon further inspection, he discovered the deceased body of a homeless woman.
“I noticed the person was doubled over, so I couldn’t see their face,” White said. “Then I noticed there was no sign of life at all.”
White called the Berkeley Police Department, who alerted the county coroner about the body. The Berkeley Fire Department pronounced the woman dead and the the coroner arrived at the scene about 12:00 p.m. to take away the body.
According to Sgt. Patricia Wilson, the Alameda County coroner’s office is working toward identifying the body and has matched the decedent to a driver’s license photo issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
“We believe we know who we have, it’s just a matter of contacting the next of kin,” Wilson said.
She added that the office will perform an autopsy on the body some time early in the week.
Although the city doubled the amount of storm shelter beds available as a result of worsening weather last December, some members of the homeless community said they do not feel safe in the city’s shelter spaces and prefer to find shelter outside.
“Shelters are not welcoming. They are human warehouses,” said Mike Zint, an activist with the advocacy group First They Came for the Homeless. “In the morning, rain or shine, they are forced to leave. So, the shelter offers temporary warmth and a roof only.”
A vigil will be held Tuesday at New City Hall about 5:00 p.m. to remember members of the homeless community who have died within the last year from conditions triggered by exposure.
“Even in a mild climate like Berkeley, people don’t realize that if it’s 40 degrees and you’re soaked to the bone, it will kill you,” said White.