Berkeley is accelerating plans to more humanely deal with homelessness in the wake of a San Francisco Public Press report on a chaotic encampment raid in October, and city staffers say they will start collaborating with unhoused people and homeless advocates when planning to clean or clear large encampments.
Several city departments are changing procedures in response to complaints from those living in encampments and their advocates, and from residential and commercial neighbors.
Despite San Francisco officials’ attempts to get ahead of storms, many unhoused people said they were having a hard time accessing shelter beds and other resources to protect them from the rain.
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.
Proposition C is a proposed charter amendment that would create the Homelessness Oversight Commission to oversee the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.
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.
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.
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.
With the help of the original occupiers, indigenous rights activists, photojournalists and historians, the National Park Service installed a prominent exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the island occupation — “Red Power on Alcatraz Perspectives: 50 Years Later.”
More than a year after COVID-19 shut down much of the city, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is set to resume all parking enforcement policies and phase in towing.
Advocates opposing San Francisco’s towing practices have asked for a permanent moratorium.