BART Police Department posted eviction notices beside the tents of two homeless encampment sites in South Berkeley on Saturday, demanding that encampment residents permanently vacate the area within 72 hours.
The attempted eviction affects two separate homeless encampments near the Ashby BART station on Adeline Street: the Here/There encampment, which is home to about 25 residents, and another unassociated encampment, which now contains about 20 residents. BART train tracks run between the two encampments.
“You are trespassing on private property in violation of California Penal Code 602(m) and are hereby ordered to vacate the premises and PERMANENTLY remove all of your property,” the evacuation notices said. “ALL ITEMS NOT REMOVED WITHIN 72 HOURS OF THE DATE OF THIS NOTICE WILL BE REMOVED BY BART.”
After multiple requests for comment, BART spokesperson Alicia Trost still could not be reached as of press time.
BPD spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel said that because the encampment residents are located on BART property, BPD did not play a role in the eviction decision. He added that BART PD was responsible for the decision.
Homeless activist Guy “Mike” Lee said the eviction was “unfortunate.” He added, however, that he, along with other members of the homeless community, “knew that it was coming.”
“There are people dying in the streets,” Lee said. “There is not a section in Berkeley that doesn’t have a homeless encampment, and (City Council members) absolutely refuse to really address this problem.”
Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf said a number of locals who live in the neighborhood have complained about issues at the second encampment. She cited the example of a woman who was found dead at this encampment at the beginning of October. She said the violence has to be addressed but that it is unfortunate that BART PD is evicting both encampments, as there has not been any violence at the Here/There encampment, to her knowledge.
Wengraf added that City Council has not formally addressed the issue of encampment evictions because these encampments are not located on city property. She also expressed concern, however, about the next steps for the encampment residents, referring to the displacement of homeless people as a “shuffle game.”
Antoinette Johnson, a resident at the second encampment, said BART police officers “just popped up” Saturday about 5 p.m. She said the parking lot next to the encampment was filled with BART police cars when she returned to her tent at that time.
“They did it on the weekend, when nobody could do nothing about it,” Johnson alleged, referring to BART PD’s decision to notify residents of the eviction on a day when most lawyers are out of their offices.
Jay Demello, a resident at the Here/There encampment and a member of the homeless activist group First They Came for the Homeless, said the group filed a lawsuit in court Monday seeking a restraining order against BART. But he said the paperwork may not stop BART PD from following through with the eviction.
Demello, along with many other residents of both encampments, has not yet taken down his tent and said he plans to protest the eviction.
“(BART PD officers) are probably going to come in force, like many times in this camp and all over Berkeley. We get kicked out by the police, constantly. What it comes down (to) is they start grabbing tents and start just grabbing people’s property and throwing it in a big truck,” Demello alleged.
Another Here/There encampment resident and First They Came for the Homeless member, Stacey Hill, said that although the eviction notices were “straight out of the blue,” his years of experience dealing with homelessness have led him to expect such occurrences.
The 72-hour eviction deadline imposed by BART PD is Tuesday. But whether the encampment residents will actually be evicted is still unclear.
“I don’t think they have the resources to evict those (encampment residents),” Lee said. “I think if those people decide to not voluntary leave — I don’t think they can evict them.”