Watch CBS News

Berkeley Evaluates How To Respond To Homeless Tent City

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- Berkeley officials are evaluating how to respond to a small tent city of about 20 people that has been set up on a median in the middle of Adeline Street near the Berkeley Bowl grocery store, a city spokesman said Tuesday.

City of Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city evaluates each situation on a case-by-case basis.

Mike Zint of the advocacy group First They Came for the Homeless said he and other homeless people set up the tent city because they are
unhappy with the new system that was set up at the beginning of the year to allocate aid to people who live on the street.

Those services are coordinated by the Berkeley Food & Housing Project, also known as The HUB, which is located nearby at 1901 Fairview St.

Zint said the center is disorganized, making it too hard for people to get help and homeless people are being sent out of the area for

Zint said he and other people set up a protest camp outside The HUB's office last week but the city raided the camp.

He said the homeless camp is drug- and alcohol-free and people at the camp provide their own security to keep everyone safe.

Chakko said the city asked the protesters to move by last Friday and they complied and there weren't any citations or arrests.

Zint alleged that the city brought "a crusher" to smash couches that the protesters were sleeping on.

But Chakko said when the city removes homeless people from sites it gives them time to take their belongings away and everything that is left over is bagged up and stored and people can retrieve those items without any cost.

Chakko said one reason the city asked people to leave the camp outside The HUB's office is that it received "a number of complaints" by
neighbors in the area.

He said the city has also received some complaints about the new camp on the median in the middle of Adeline Street between Ward and Stuart streets, which Zint said was set up on Sunday night.

The Berkeley Bowl and a Walgreen's store are about a block away to the south and a Sports Basement store is about a block away to the north.

There are also several small businesses nearby, including a bakery and two pilates and yoga clinics.

Zint said protesters picked the site because it's near The HUB and the Ashby BART station.

The protesters have set up a large sign that says, "Honk To Keep Affordable Housing in Berkeley" and Zint said they've been getting a lot of
community support.

Zint said, "Tents are a step in the process of getting people off the streets because otherwise they'll be exposed to the elements and die."

He said the homeless camp is drug- and alcohol-free and people at the camp provide their own security to keep everyone safe.

He said the next step would be to create "tiny homes" that would be like shacks, sheds or trailers and include a kitchen and a common area.
Zint said he wants to keep the protest small for now but it would be possible to expand tents to three adjacent medians in the middle of
Adeline Street so that up to 1,000 homeless people could be accommodated.

He said the protesters are "mobile" and if the city moves them out of the Adeline Street site, they have "a target list" and will move on to
Mayor Tom Bates' home and then to the homes of City Council members.

Sharon Hawkins Leyden, the director of client services for Berkeley Food & Housing, a non-profit group which has a contract with the
city to run the new system, said the program is aimed at finding long-term housing for homeless people.

Leyden said homeless people who've been on the street the longest and have a disability are given the highest priority but the system tries to help other people as well.

Leyden said the program has helped many people find housing but admitted that the process is slow.

"The system is getting better every month and we're finding more housing for people," she said.

Leyden said the protesters want affordable housing, tiny homes and a city-approved tent city but she said those priorities "are not in our

She said, "We can offer them services but most likely they would have to move out of Berkeley" because there's more affordable housing in
outlying communities than there is in Berkeley.

Leyden said the protesters "have very legitimate concerns and we can help them if they're willing to move into conventional housing but we
have no magic wands."

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.