Berkeley's homeless policies, including shelters, drop-in services, hands-off community policing and overall homeless-friendly policies have been a magnet for the homeless population for many years. As a result, Berkeley's downtown area has been inundated by the homeless, causing many in the business community to simply leave the city and many residents and/or visitors to forego the task of navigating around them and the accompanying demand for money. Many homeless aggressively panhandle for money to purchase drugs and alcohol. As a result, the city has experienced a serious financial downturn. According to ABC News yesterday (3/13/07), Berkeley is now willing to seriously address the problem and has made the decision to begin citing anyone, including the homeless, who panhandle, shout negative comments at and thereby harass those passing by or store their belongings on public property. Finally, Berkeley is considering the rights of all residents, not just the homeless population.
Watch out Palo Alto, we're invoking Berkeley's prior failed policies right now. We now have a homeless shelter downtown and close to the high school, which is a magnet for the homeless. We provide drop-in services, are invoking "restorative policing" - code word for hands-off the homeless (i.e., do not cite) and relentless homeless advocates. We are just beginning to experience the negative results of many poor decisions on the part of City Council with regard to our growing homeless problem.