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New: Berkeley Interfaith Religious Coalition Organizes “Night Out on Streets” in Solidarity with Homesless Thursday Night (Media Advisory)

From Bob Offer-Westort and Sally Hindman
Wednesday April 08, 2015 - 05:45:00 PM

An interfaith coalition representing over 40 Berkeley religious congregations is organizing “Interfaith Actions in Solidarity with Homeless” people Thursday April 9 5pm to 6:15am Friday--at Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza, Center and Shattuck Street, Berkeley. 

Events will start with blessing of a meal at 5pm to 5:30pm by Rev. Michael McBride, long time pastor of The Way Christian Center; followed by An Interfaith Service 5:30pm to 6:15pm involving more than 20 local clergy 5:30pm to 6:15pm; followed by a “Night Out Sleeping Vigil” 6:15pm to 8pm & 6:15am in which clergy & members of the interfaith religious community will sleep on the BART Plaza with homeless people. 

The event is in response to the proposed passage of new anti-homeless laws by Berkeley City Council on March 17th, despite Berkeley voters opposing passage of Measure S no-sitting laws in 2012 and the recent violent assault on a homeless man by one of the Downtown Business Association’s private “Ambassadors.” 

According to Sally Hindman, a Quaker & Executive Director of Youth Spirit Artworks, “All the great religions of the world call us to stand up for justice—so we will be lying down tonight—sleeping on the sidewalk with Berkeley’s homeless. There are two year long waiting lists housing in Alameda County, so the very last thing we would want to do now is criminalize homeless people forced to live outside in our doorways!” 

Pastor Michael McBride states, “Having just celebrated Easter, as Christians we are gathering to express God’s love and deep compassion for all people—including homeless people.” This is a Black Lives Matters issue as well—since a predominance of those being criminalized, who will be ticketed and arrested with these new laws are, once again, African American. 

Celebrating Passover, Rabbi Michael Lerner of Beyt Tikkun emphasizes, “The clear message of our faith is that those who do not care for the poor and oppressed are defiling God’s name.” 

Zen Abbot Geri Rosen adds, “in the Zen Buddhist tradition our practice calls us to selflessness, to peaceful positive solutions, never hurtfulness or violence. We move toward practices of loving kindness. There are multiple creative proposals for approaching the challenge of homelessness in downtown Berkeley we would want the City to support.” 

Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman highlights, “Forty percent of homeless youth are marginalized LGBTQI young people who have left their homes and otherwise been forced out on the street—the very last thing our traditions call us to do is make life harder for them than it already is.”