Public Records Referenced in Oct. 4 Berkeley Encampment Sweep Article







To initiate a massive encampment sweep at Eight and Harrison streets, Berkeley police and city staff began rousting people living in tents and vehicles shortly after 6 a.m. on Oct. 4.

‘Everything Is Gone, and You Become More Lost’: 12 Hours of Chaos as Berkeley Clears Encampment

In early October, Berkeley police and city officials roused 53 unhoused residents — claiming they were harboring rodents — and seized and destroyed 29 tents and three self-made structures. People begged to retrieve personal items and work tools before the property was tossed into a phalanx of garbage trucks. Four vehicles in which people had been living were towed to impound lots. They would be crushed 15 days later, per the city’s request. 

While some operable cars and RVs were allowed to remain in the neighborhood, and people without vehicles who chose to stay were offered two-person tents, the overall effect of the sweep was that dozens of unhoused people had their belongings taken and their daily existence turned upside down.

A Native American woman in a blue shirt and black jacket sits on a chair in a forested area near a house.

California Indian Tribes Denied Resources for Decades as Federal Acknowledgement Lags

In the last 13 years, the U.S. Department of Interior has actively reviewed applications for acknowledgement of only 18 tribes, even as hundreds remain in line. The Public Press has identified more than 400 tribes seeking federal recognition and is working to confirm that 200 others with publicly listed applications are genuine.

Many have been waiting for decades. The Death Valley TimbiSha Shoshone Band is the only California tribe that has been recognized in the 44 years since the federal acknowledgement process was established.

A man in a plaid shirt holds a fire extinguisher.

Grassroots Nonprofits and Homeless Communities Create Their Own Fire Prevention Solutions

Encampment fires are a fact of life due to the exposed conditions homeless residents live in, but the 77th Avenue Rangers’ camp demonstrates that there’s hope for controlling these incidents without official intervention.

One key to their success has been fire preparedness, including measures like installing smoke alarms and keeping fire extinguishers on hand.

A young Black man stands on a San Francisco sidewalk. Down the sidewalk behind him sit tents and strewn clothing.

SF Fires Linked to Homeless Surged as Pandemic Set In

Fires associated with homeless encampments in San Francisco rose by more than two-thirds during the first year of the pandemic, according to a Public Press analysis of the narrative texts from San Francisco Fire Department reports.

Fires are an ever-present fear for people living on the streets, where an errant spark could send flames ripping through a tent or other temporary shelter, sending its contents quickly up in smoke. Unhoused residents who have suffered through this experience report receiving little of the help available to those assisted after fires in buildings.

On a Sunday morning, Nelson walks three miles roundtrip between the tow yard where he keeps his car parked and the Tenderloin neighborhood, following a routine that involves picking up his breakfast at St. Anthony’s Dining Room. He passes people who have picked up meals and are eating them while sitting in chairs placed on the street by St. Anthony’s. The chairs are spaced six feet apart for social distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. After the coronavirus pandemic began, service providers applied safety restrictions. No more open showers or restrooms. No more public seating to charge devices. No more dining rooms. Rather than claiming a chair on the street, Nelson prefers bringing his take-out food back to his car, and enjoys it in privacy.

Pandemic Makes Ride-Hailing Gig Untenable for S.F. Man Living in His Car

During the pandemic, parking enforcement has been lax, and the 72-hour rule that forced Gregory Nelson to park in a new spot every few days is suspended. He found peace and stability staying in one spot — his version of sheltering in place — like millions of Americans. But working from home was not possible for him. Every week he tried to drive for Lyft, Nelson grappled with out-of-pocket expenses to use the ride-hailing app: car rental fees, tolls, gas and the occasional car wash. Within weeks of the shelter-in-place order, Nelson could no longer afford driving.