Public Comment

Ani: Living on the Street in Berkeley

Marcia Poole and John Paulin
Saturday June 09, 2018 - 10:22:00 AM

We call to your attention the case of Ani Mauck, an 80-year-old American ordained Buddhist nun of the Tibetan Buddhist Karma Kagyu lineage, who received teachings and empowerments from the 16th Karmapa, KaluRinpoche, and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, among others. Ani has been homeless in Berkeley for over 5 years and has been a member of the First They Came For The Homeless (FTCFTH) encampment community for the last year. Although she had fallen through the social services safety net, she was welcomed into that community. FTCFTH provided her shelter, and to the best of its ability, accommodations for her special dietary and physical needs. Ani not physically well. For quite some time she has been afflicted with severe diabetes, has suffered several small strokes, and recently broke her toe, which significantly exacerbated her mobility problems. Although she very much appreciates living with the FTCFTH community, she believes she will not survive another winter living on the street. 

On Monday, May 21st, Ani was pushing her wheelchair in the Ashby BART station. The trip there had exhausted her, and because she lacked the energy required to push her chair to the elevator, she boarded the flattened ramp of an out of service escalator, believing that its slope was gentle enough to accommodate both her and the wheelchair. However, once aboard, the device jerked into motion and she fell backward fracturing her skull and severely bruising her sacrum. She was taken unconscious to Highland Hospital. 

FTCFTH put out a missing person report, and a member tracked her to the hospital, and found her weak, but clear-headed. By Saturday she had improved enough to be transferred to Oakland Heights Nursing Facility, where she is enjoying their care and amenities. Visitors are welcome (2361 E 29th St, Oakland, CA94606). 

Part of this tragedy is the City of Berkeley’s “inability” to come to the assistance of this woman. Once released, this frail 80 year-old will return to a tent in Berkeley. The Mayor's office and the City Council have been made aware of Ani’s distress repeatedly and of the FTCFTH community's fear that a woman in her condition would incur a serious accident or illness. When informed last winter that Ani had been soaked by the rains, the Mayor's office stated that it could not do “anything. We have hundreds of people just like her out there." 

The Mayor and several Council members visited the FTCFTH encampment to meet Ani and other residents. Many of the homeless are disabled, some of them severely, and a number of them get around in wheelchairs. Others without disabilities, including an increasing number of senior citizens, have been priced out of their homes and left without a place to live. Increasingly, the face of homelessness will be people who look like our mothers and fathers, rather than our children. 

The real tragedy here is the indifference of our “progressive” Democrats. If one of them ever writes The Conscience of a Liberal, it will be a very thin book. 

Berkeley failed Ani as it has failed many others. Instead of seeing less fortunate individuals as valued members of their community, our politicians label them and criminalize them. This cannot continue. Berkeley must develop a conscience.