As a result of negotiations between the city of Berkeley, Caltrans and homeless advocacy organization Where Do We Go Berkeley, or WDWGB, the Seabreeze homeless encampment will be cleaned biweekly.
The Berkeley Department of Public Works conducted a debris cleanup at the Seabreeze and University Avenue Interstate 80 underpass encampment Sunday, according to a Nixle alert. Previously, WDWGB worked with Seabreeze residents every month to move garbage into designated areas, where it would be picked up by Caltrans, said WDWGB lead advocate Ian Rogers.
A WDWGB Facebook post from early October said the city of Berkeley notified the organization of a plan to temporarily relocate Seabreeze residents, who could only take what they were able to carry, to Aquatic Park. In response, WDWGB founding member Andrea Henson penned a letter to Tony Tavares, Caltrans District 4 director, and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, stating that Seabreeze residents were prepared “to risk citation and/or arrest” if any eviction attempt was made.
After negotiations, Berkeley and Caltrans decided instead on alternating biweekly cleaning duties.
“It felt like a huge win. The amount of trash they produce at Seabreeze doesn’t seem like anything compared to what all the ultra-consumers produce,” Rogers said in the email. “Until some kind of constant regular trash program is introduced to all citizens in Berkeley this work will be incredibly important.”
The biweekly cleanups will reduce garbage but will not require the camp’s removal, Rogers said in the email.
On Sunday, for the first time ever, the city was the one conducting the cleanup, according to Rogers. He added that he would like to see the city continue to work with noncity-funded outreach groups in order to address the systemic issue of homelessness.
Other issues the agencies discussed include fire abatement and mental health care in encampments, according to Rogers.
“Sometimes information about people experiencing homelessness ends up in a vacuum,” Rogers said. “If they listen to those people they will have a direct line of communication with individuals on the streets.”