Public Comment

Open Letter to Berkeley Council Re Anti-Sit Proposal

By Patricia E. Wall, Executive Director, Homeless Action Center
Thursday June 07, 2012 - 04:42:00 PM

Honorable City Council Members,

I am writing to urge you to vote no on the Mayor's proposal to put an anti-sit proposal on the November ballot at your Tuesday June 12th Council meeting. I have been working with homeless people in Berkeley since 1995. Citations and subsequent arrests for warrants for failure to appear on citations impede our work with homeless people. People with active warrants are not eligible for public benefits like food stamps, General Assistance, or Social Security. We spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy helping people access these resources, and they can be wiped out with a single citation for sleeping in public, for having no bicycle license, for having more than a two-dog aggregation on Telegraph, or any of the other many things our clients get cited for. 

I fear that if this measure makes it on the ballot in November and is passed that we in the legal services world will spend valuable time un-doing the harm of multiple citations rather than actually helping people become eligible for all of the benefits to which they're entitled. The criminalization of homeless people doesn't end homelessness, doesn't advance the City's own plan to end homelessness, conflicts with the United State Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recommendations, and distracts all of us from the evidenced-based best practices to end homelessness. The USICH Report states explicitly, "These measures punish people who currently live on the street and do nothing to reduce the factors contributing to homelessness. Rather than helping people to regain housing, obtain employment, or access needed treatment and services, criminalization creates a costly revolving door that circulates individuals experiencing homelessness from the street to the criminal justice system and back." (Searching Out Solutions, Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, April 9, 2012 Report, at p.8. Find the report here:

Please vote NO on Tuesday and keep this divisive, short-sighted measure off the ballot.