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Berkeley Takes Realistic Look att Aggressive Homeless

Original post made by Kate, Crescent Park, on Mar 14, 2007

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 We provide drop-in services, are invoking "restorative policing" - code word for hands-off the homeless (i.e., do not cite) and relentless homeless advocates.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.

Comments (11)

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2007 at 10:24 am

So, as the heat gets turned up in Berkley, and turned down in Palo Alto, where are the more violation-prone Berkley homeless going to gravitate?

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Posted by Eileen Richardson
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Palo Alto is taking all the steps that Berkeley is (and then some) only they are not public yet. We have a unique homeless issue and it will take tireless people, time and this community to make a change. If you want to learn more or give us your thoughts, please attend our upcoming event on 4/10 at the Garden Court Hotel at 8AM where you can talk with the Mayor and the Police Department directly.

Restorative policing means "hands on" policing, addressing the problem at its root and changing lives forever, i.e. making real change permanently.

Web Link

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2007 at 11:15 am

Eileen - Your response leaves alot to the imagination as to what restorative policing actually means. It appears that some in our community already know what it means and others do not because it is not, as you say, public information yet. Since you seem to be one of the individuals that has been informed of its meaning, you may be able to answer a few basic questions. You have indicated that Palo Alto "will take all the steps that Berkeley is taking and then some". Since Berkeley is now citing those homeless individuals that are storing their personal belongings on public property (streets, parks, open public land) and those that are physically and/or verbally aggressive towards others, are you saying that Palo Alto will now also be vigilant in making certain that the same happens here? Will citations and arrests actually occur here in Palo Alto when the aforementioned circumstances arise? Will the downtown streets be closely monitored by the police department to insure that the circumstances described above do not occur on a regular basis? Let's hope so. I just completed a walk downtown this morning and I witnessed a homeless man interacting with an elderly Asian woman who was just tying to park her car in front of University Cafe. He was yelling at her and waiving his cain around. She stepped on the gas and fled. I hope we can agree that we need comprehensive police oversight downtown now that the shelter is based there and is drawing more homeless to Palo Alto.

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Posted by Just Thinking
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2007 at 5:44 pm

Who is providing the fuding for the changes in Berkeley? Jails and court systems are not without expense. And do believe that those cited will be paying their fines, they will end up doing the time - getting thre hots and a cot for 30 days. And when released, they'll be back in downtown Berkeley.
What's the gain?

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2007 at 10:06 am

Just Thinking - Where do you think the displaced homeless, unhappy with Berkeley's new policy of enforcing the vagrancy laws, will go? It doesn't take much common sense to realize that those cities that have homeless friendly policies are the next stop. Restorative policing in Palo Alto is just the ticket to attract additional homeless to Palo Alto. Police that are unwilling to enforce the current vagrancy laws, unless you are physically attacked, and a new homeless shelter are magnets for the homeless. Do you really believe that a newly equipped homeless shelter that does not require any drug testing and "restorative policing", i.e., homeless friendly policing, is going to lead to a decrease in the number of vagrants in Palo Alto? Who's going to pay for all of these new services to the homeless? Who's going to pay for the additional police officers needed to patrol the downtown area? The people of Palo Alto will pay for all of it. Do any of those who supposedly supervise the newly arrived homeless actually live in Palo Alto and have to deal with the negative effects of the increased homeless population? I would venture that they do not. They go home and leave the homeless problems here. Who is/are the private investor(s) in the homeless shelter, if there are any? Where do they live? I would make a bet that it isn't in Palo Alto.

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Posted by Just thinking
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2007 at 5:37 pm

I did a bit of research on the Berkeley proposal. It was disappointing.
The same mayor made the same proposal last May. They spent nearly one million bucks. And they have made so little progress they are trying to shoot it into the budget again.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 8, 2007 at 7:53 am

Berkeley's homeless problem is out of control. It costs the city millions at this point to even try to address the problem. They as a city have been homeless friendly for a long time and are now reaping the "benefits". The homeless problems that they face and pay for now were made over the course of many years and won't be fixed in one or two. Amazingly, Palo Alto is now making those same mistakes and we will pay for it for years to come just like Berkeley.

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Posted by Just Thinking
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Check out Berkeley's site and look the Mayor's memo to council on March 13, 2007
Bottom of page 1:
"Many cities, such as Portland, Santa Cruz, and Palo Alto, have developed safe street programs that provide a combination of service enhancements and enforcement....."

I'm so glad we are copying them copying us copying them.

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Posted by cm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Anyone try, say, googling restorative policing before characterizing it (as 'homeless friendly' and 'hands off'? Restorative policing, as done by police in San Rafael, is about taking an active role (rather than the the passive and reactive system we have now) in getting the unhoused who are most familiar to the police, and typically mentally ill or head injured, into treatment. The idea is to redirect the 'frequent flyers'into something that works.

In case you haven't noticed, what we have now could be best qualified as 'revolving door policing.' Is this what you prefer? What would make anyone think that citing the unhoused would have any effect?

And why do people talk about the local homeless like they came from HomelessLand or are the products of parthenogenesis? Some were born here and most I've spoken with have been here for decades longer than I have.

I don't know about you, but I came here for the schools. Does that make me more worthy than those who came here for help?

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Posted by cm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2007 at 11:42 pm

Kate, It might surprise you to learn -- I know it did me -- that San Francisco was one of the top twenty 'meanest US cities' toward the homeless for at least the latest two surveys I could find. This means they do lots of the things it sounds like you are asking for -- citations, sit/lie ordinances, etc.

Diversion programs and active outreach seem to be more successful in the long run.

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Posted by Jimbo
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Sep 27, 2007 at 4:16 pm

As a Berkeley student and hopeless idealist, I would love to see the social programs that the Feds and State governments do not fund be funded by local communities--especially affluent communities of highly educated persons who have the resources and long-term mindset necessary to implement them. Most homeless people are mentally ill and/or substance abusers. So where are the free drug treatment programs? Where are the free mental hospitals? As a nation, we have the money for these things, but that money is spent on the war on (poor people who use) drugs (insert Iraq war spending comment here also). Somebody has to lead the way and show that social programs do work. If you prefer to remain silent then the prison industrial complex will gladly speak up for your tax dollars.

Sorry for the preaching, but, yeah, the solution comes in improving the community that you've got, and the definition of the problem does not stop at "I saw a wacko homeless guy today...eww! gross!".

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