Yes, Berkeley is generally a caring city and yet even here, in famously liberal Berkeley, there has been a trend toward the criminalization of the poor and the homeless. A recent report prepared by the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley1 documents the increasing criminalization of homeless people in California through local laws mimicking shameful vagrancy laws of past eras that targeted people of color, migrants, and the physically disabled. We are told by the experts that chronic homelessness is a complex issue. We do not even have a reliable count of how many homeless people are living on the streets of Berkeley.
We at CONSIDER THE HOMELESS! do not dispute the complexities that have vexed homeless experts and policy makers for decades. However, when we see the same vulnerable people week after week on our soup rounds — the elderly, men and women with both physical and mental challenges — we think that there has to be a better way. Everyone on the street has a story, some are/or will be on our Street Bytes page, and they have good reasons for why they do not want to or are not able to enter a shelter even if a bed was available. Families don’t want to be split up, the frail and the elderly are afraid that they will be robbed or worse in a shelter, and/or they do not want to be separated from their pets. There are myriads of reasons why as awful it is … life on the streets is sometimes preferable to a shelter. On the streets many of the homeless have formed “families” and support systems – here they can look out for each other and have their best friends (human and animal) nearby.
We do not seek to compete with or replace existing services. We are working with the city and other non-profit organizations to educate ourselves about services available to the homeless in Berkeley. We strive to have accurate and up-to date information to offer to the homeless on our streets so that if/when they reach out to us and ask for assistance we will be able to connect them, where possible, with appropriate existing services, and especially, to assist them along the way.
The City of Berkeley is so often out in front leading the way towards a brighter and better future — surely here in this city known for it’s innovation, compassion and creativity — together we can find a better way to care for our homeless population.
• UC Berkeley law school study finds increasing criminalization of homelessness in California
The Daily Californian - February 22, 2015
• Targeting Laws That Afflict Homeless People in California
Berkeley Law - News Archive - February 19, 2015
• UC Berkeley report: California cities ‘criminalize’ homeless
The Sacramento Bee - February 19, 2015
• Guess Which “Liberal” State Has 500 Laws Aimed at Oppressing the Homeless?
Alternet - February 18, 2015
• Calif. laws increasingly target homeless, sparking calls for Right to Rest
Aljazeera America - February 18, 2015
• Homeless Bill of Rights aims to protect life-sustaining activities
Aljazeera America - October 6, 2014
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