BART allowed to evict Berkeley homeless camp, judge rules

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U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled Tuesday morning that BART will be allowed to evict the “Here There” homeless encampment in South Berkeley, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

According to BART spokesperson Jim Allison, BART decided to evict two homeless encampments near the Ashby BART station after receiving more than 50 complaints of dangerous activity, including a fatal drug overdose, fires and an assault with a deadly weapon. Clark Sullivan, a resident of “Here There,” alleged that all of the reported problems occurred in the other encampment located near 63rd Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Sullivan added that he was unsure of where he would live now. Homeless people have resided in the encampment near the “Here There” sculpture for 10 months.

Residents of the “Here There” encampment previously filed a lawsuit Oct. 23 against BART and the city of Berkeley for civil rights violations and had been granted a temporary stay.

In recent weeks, the 63rd Street Neighborhood Organization and a nearby Montessori school have been urging BART to act, according to Allison. One of the ways BART is attempting to tackle the issue of homelessness is through a policy implemented June 2016, setting a goal to designate at least 35 percent of units built on BART property as affordable housing, Allison said in an email.

He added, however, that as a transit agency, BART has limited resources to handle this problem, which is why they are working with the city of Berkeley to address community concerns.

Dan Siegel, an attorney representing the homeless community in their complaint against BART and the city of Berkeley, argued that kicking the residents off the property without offering an alternative shelter would put the community at risk for worsened health, according to Berkeleyside. This, Siegel said, could violate their 8th Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

Sullivan, one of the plaintiffs in the complaint, was forced out of his apartment last year and has been living in the ‘Here There’ encampment since June 2016. He added that he was unsure whether the homeless community would continue with their case, but that they believe they have good grounds for the lawsuit.

Sullivan said he believes that Berkeley City Council says that it supports the homeless population, but have yet to follow through with constructing affordable housing. In lieu of such options, Sullivan said he appreciated that members of the Berkeley community have shown generosity towards members of the homeless community.

“I just felt (the eviction) was disappointing, naturally. We put a lot of effort into making the camp,” Sullivan said. “But the struggle is by no means over.”

Contact Jack Austin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @JackAustinDC.