by Carol Denney April 5, 2018
If you're lucky enough to live somewhere with a locked front door and a mailbox, you're afloat right now in election mailers timed to begin familiarizing you with names and faces of candidates making promises. The promises you heard last time are probably a little fuzzy in your mind, but if you care about seeing faces of your old neighbors walking the streets with carts full of bedding you're wondering what happened. Didn't the previous bucket of candidates promise some kind of change? Wasn't sacrificing our skyline and open space supposed to be making a difference?
What happened to the promises made by Mayor Jesse Arreguin to the Coalition on Homelessness, which included rescinding anti-homeless laws like the one inspiring Berkeley to issue eviction notices to the RV dwellers on Marina Way? One would think the new city council would find a sweet spot of options before simply issuing eviction notices on the grounds of a technical violation taking place right now. If every sweep of a tent city or relocation of a homeless community is (a.) expensive and (b.) pointless, why is it still going on in a city which brags about having a PhD and/or a creative screenplay in every back pocket?
The Mayor took care of his own report card on homelessness by issuing himself an A grade back in January, a self-serving move at the bottom of an agenda which attracted little attention. After all, the tactic used by his predecessor Mayor Tom Bates of adding up the costs of addressing "homelessness" - which includes the expense of pointlessly sweeping people and their belongings from place to place - usually impresses local voters, or at least property owners requesting the sweeps who often make large campaign donations. But the absurdity of walking by empty houses, empty storefronts, and empty fresh, new apartment buildings advertising vacancies year after year surrounded by people sleeping in doorways wears hard.
The RV group on Marina Way, like the nearby tent dwellers, created an informal community as far out of the way of the commercial and residential districts as they could find. Their own resourcefulness and creativity creates an intensely relevant experience any candidate might examine for guidance and inspiration regarding innovative living solutions.
Homelessness nationwide was carefully planned and built out of greed; the amount of short-term rentals in Berkeley alone would house all the people on our streets. The math is simple, and a practical City Council could rescind or suspend the anti-vehicle sleeping ordinance until the very few people on Marina Way worked together with the city to address any issues with common sense, especially since more than one in the group have children in local schools.
Pressure your City Council representative to do something more than point a finger at how expensive it is to move tent groups and vehicle sleepers endlessly from place to place. After all, you're paying for something that over decades has proven futile, money and resources which could be put to valuable, practical use. Your city council representative hears from those who complain; make sure they hear from you that it's time to rescind Berkeley's anti-homeless laws. It's discriminatory to overreact to a complaint about the community on Marina Way when Berkeley not only turned a blind eye to Berkeley property owners' short-term rental violations, but accommodated them by crafting a law to simply legalize their illegal behavior. Criminalizing poverty should have no place in our community.
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