It took the savage beating of a homeless man to reveal the terrible cost of allowing business owners to create their own private patrols on the streets of Berkeley.
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The DBA’s board is dominated by large property owners who were the primary funders of the failed anti-sitting law campaign in 2012. It takes courage to say no to the merchant association’s short-sighted effort to make homelessness and poverty invisible. Courage is in short supply in the Berkeley City Council.
The Downtown Berkeley Association and the City Council pushed the anti-homeless laws without even consulting any of the city’s commissions. The DBA requested these measures in a wholehearted attempt to transform Berkeley into one of the most repressive cities in California in targeting poor and homeless citizens.
He is not cowed, and will keep protesting the criminalization of homelessness. “What am I supposed to do? If the shelters are full and I got to sleep here, I got to sleep here. It can’t be illegal for me to sleep. It’s highly inhumane. I will fight it.”
More and more cities turn to curfews, prohibitions on begging, sleeping, or “camping” in response to the visible poverty in their public spaces, despite the fact that criminalization is “the most expensive and least effective” method of addressing homelessness. Jail costs two to three times the cost of supportive housing.
My sons have helped bring gifts to the poor on Christmas and meals to the homeless in the cold winter. They’ve hugged strangers and told them that not only God loves them, but that they love them, after offering prayer and a warm meal and blanket to sustain them at night.
Gary Johnson was one of thousands of people experiencing homelessness when the sheriffs came to roust him. Now he is sentenced to jail for the crime of being caught asleep in Santa Cruz at night. This “criminal” has been smacked down repeatedly by The Law precisely because he was homeless.
The Suitcase Clinic began when a group of UC students gave medical aid out of suitcases at the Berkeley Flea Market to homeless individuals. Great value is placed on truly listening and it is in these dialogues of love and understanding that the heart of the Suitcase Clinic lies.
“There was going to be a big demonstration the next day — people throwing things and stuff. Everybody was angry and I was just as angry as anybody else, but I was a pacifist and besides, if I threw anything, I’d probably hit my foot.” — Julia Vinograd
One day a child was laid in my arms/ My first born, a daughter who looked like me,/ Who showed me unconditional love,/ This was a beautiful new experience/ To have a daughter,/ I was changed to my core … I was transformed/ I became somebody’s mama.
A new Institute for Policy Studies report, “The Poor Get Prison,” declares: “A democratic society that purports ‘freedom and justice for all’ can’t coexist with one that profiles, criminalizes and blames poor, black and Latino communities. We need to take collective responsibility for our hostile nation where the poor get prison.”