The December 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

The Poor Will Perish Without Housing

We Accuse the US Government

The Works of Mercy: Thoughts on the Death of a Homeless Man

Greed Fuels Oakland Condo Conversion Law

Berkeley Food and Housing Project

Happy Holidays: Berkeley Targets the Homeless

Claire Burch Documents Life on the Streets

St. Joseph the Worker Needs Support

94 Years Old and Still Homeless

Judge Orders Fresno to Uphold U.S. Constitution

Stranded in the Season of Giving

Stories of Street Survival

A Criminal of Poverty

New Media Offensive for Iraq War

Poor Leonard's Almanack on Religion

AIDS & Poverty: A Deadly Link

Mysteries in Our Own Back Yard

December Poetry of the Streets


November 2006

October 2006

September 2006

July 2006

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Happy Holidays: Berkeley Politicians and Business Leaders Target the Homeless

by Carol Denney

"We need to wait until after election time to see if we can get any changes to the law, meanwhile, we will do what we can under existing conditions."
-- Deborah Badhia, Downtown Berkeley Association, for the Berkeley Business District Network, October 5, 2006

In a letter dated October 5, 2006, Deborah Badhia of the Downtown Berkeley Association sent the following message to Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz, Berkeley Police Chief Doug Hambleton and the Berkeley Business District Network.

"Dear Chief Hambleton,
"The BBDN (Berkeley Business District Network) appreciates your taking time to meet with us yesterday. We remain very concerned about street behavior problems throughout the City. Telegraph and the downtown district continue to be heavily impacted by inappropriate behavior. There is a very large number of people with mental health problems who are shifting between our districts...
"In our meeting, it was helpful to review the content of 13.36.015, one of the current laws related to the enforcement of street behavior. As action items, we committed to the following:
"The districts will update and distribute our Crime Watch brochure. We will publicize the use of 981-9900 as the call in for all non-emergency reports such as sleepers...."

While the rest of the nation dealt a resounding blow to political business as usual, the citizens of Berkeley not only gave a resounding endorsement to the status quo, they are all tucked in for another winter of hounding the homeless.

The same business interests that originated the anti-poor, anti-homeless legislation and street sweeps of the last two decades are poised to strike again with the usual tactics: chasing people from one end of town to the other, arresting people under current laws, and familiar calls for new, more powerful legislative "tools" to help criminalize the poor and mentally disabled.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates' administration began with 240 shelter beds, and dedicates itself to "maintaining" those shelter beds. Translation? No more shelter beds in Berkeley beyond the existing 240.

Despite an enormous low-cost housing deficit growing in tandem with the destruction of single-room-occupancy housing, and its replacement with high-end condos, which often function as weekday bedrooms for people who work in the city but whose family digs are in Concord, Berkeley has no plans for the people it has huddled in doorways except to have a huddle of its own with the business interests, the police, and the City Council, and produce some new, creative legislation to put them away for good.

Long-time Berkeley residents recognize that crackdowns on Berkeley's poor people come with the holidays as surely as Salvation Army bell-ringers and plastic Santas. But the post-election holiday season, if Deborah Badhia's letter is any indication, has the poor and homeless targeted right in its cross-hairs.

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