Public Comment

An open letter to Mayor Arreguin and the Berkeley City Manager

Marcia Poole
Friday December 16, 2016 - 10:49:00 AM

I am concerned that immediately upon the launching of your proposal to deal with the critical nature of our homeless crisis, you have met resistance from that very community and perhaps, you do not understand why. I would like to give you my take on their oppositional position and a solution.

The First They Came For the Homeless camp (Tent City) has been leading the public movement to end the suffering of homelessness by their adherence to being a self-governing, clean and sober community that helps anyone in a similar condition. I have been extremely impressed with their community, by their spirit of generosity and commitment to the “other”. I have gone there several times just to visit and am almost overwhelmed by the fraternal lovingness of it.

Mike Lee and others have endured great hardship living in their camps. First, the City with its predilection to move them every time they get established and structured, is a blow from which they have had to recover eleven times. The raids by the police department, at the instruction of the City Manager’s office, have resulted in their having almost all of their possessions (tents, sleeping bags, mats, clothing, medicine, & food) removed and they have been left stranded over and over again in the cold and the rain with nothing. It has put their lives is jeopardy and has resulted in everyone at the camp getting physically weaker and sicker. True, after a week or so, many of the items are replaced through the kindness of the Berkeley citizenry, but each moment they have to endure such awful circumstances spirals them further downward. I have been out there with them when all that was left after a raid were two large tarps that they had to string up to trees to shelter their people from the rain. They were freezing, wet, unmedicated (hypertension, asthma, antibiotics, etc medicines taken.) and despondent. It is this despondency that you are now encountering in their anger and outrage. 

They need to be indoors now. They need to be warm and dry now. They should not be forced out, back into the rain and cold at 7 AM and told that they can return at 10 PM. Think about what they have to go through for that. They have to take down their tents and cart all of their belongings over to the overnight shelter or warming station, possibly in the rain and without any way to get there except walking. They go into the place, sleep for less than 9 hours and have to cart all of their belongings someplace else and wait and see if that center will be open or have room for them the next night. They can’t leave their tents and possessions in place at the camp because of the “tweakers” that come by and steal from them. Some of them are so sick and exhausted that not being able to stay in bed for longer periods deteriorate their health more. Some can’t walk even a block without severe pain. 

They need a place where they can move their belongings into, be assured they can stay there for a much longer period of time, where they are able to be free of the fear of imminent raids and where they can heal and receive services. That is why they are saying no to the overnight shelters and warming centers. It is not because they are service resistant. They just can’t take being shuffled around every ten or twelve hours. Please listen to what they are really trying to tell you and don’t get bogged down in their emotional reaction. Please think, plan, adjust and help. Now.