Homelessness, Housing, and Street Behavior
Early in my career, I worked for a homeless nonprofit agency where I assisted homeless individuals trying to reenter the workforce and attend school. I believe that we have an obligation to help homeless people get back on their feet by providing opportunities for housing and work. We also need to provide mental health services to those who need support.
We must keep our shelters and services running, and we must provide pathways to housing. At the same time, I recognize that Berkeley invests significant dollars into homeless services, and we need to make sure we spend those dollars effectively. We also need to support our local businesses and residents who feel the impacts of anti-social street behavior on a regular basis. Having compassion for Berkeley’s homeless population and expecting our commercial sidewalks and parks to be clean, safe, and welcoming are not mutually exclusive.
Finally, we need to address this problem regionally. Berkeley can’t do it alone. Political collaboration is incredibly important, especially because we need to produce regional solutions to important issues like homelessness, housing.
- I led investments in permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals, including modular housing, step-up housing and the Berkeley Way project.
- I supported court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for mentally ill individuals on our streets.
- I mandated biannual comprehensive homeless services reports so we can track the funding and effectiveness of our homeless services, shelters, and programs. We need to a) know how much money we are spending and b) spend it the best way to help homeless individuals get into homes or treatment.
- I have consistently supported navigation centers and shelters to provide Berkeley’s unhoused residents a place to access respite, laundry, food and services.
- I successfully advocated for mobile bathroom and shower facilities to better address the health and safety needs of our homeless population and broader community.
What should I do if see illegal street behavior or health/safety violations?
If you see any active illegal behavior, please report that to Berkeley Police by calling 510-981-5900 in a timely manner. Please try to distinguish details about the incident – where it specifically took place, what time, what the person looked like, etc. BPD uses incident reports to identify areas in need of more frequent patrolling.
If you need to report health and safety concerns such as drug paraphernalia, human waste, etc. email [email protected] or call 311 (landline) or 510-981-2489 (by cell) to let Berkeley’s Customer Service team know. 311 logs in complaints and prioritizes accordingly.
The City’s Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team can be reached at 510-981-5244.
What is the City doing to address growing homeless encampments?
There are city ordinances that address encampments (particularly in parks), however these ordinances have limitations which are outlined below:
Martin vs. the City of Boise
In 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a case, Martin vs. the City of Boise, which declared it unconstitutional for punishing people for sleeping on the sidewalk when there aren’t enough shelter beds or housing units available as an alternative. The City currently has hotel rooms, trailers, and shelters to house our homeless community but they are at capacity. As such, overnight camping must be permitted under the Boise decision.
Prior to COVID-19 (see below), the City did not permit overnight camping in our Parks. City ordinances allow individuals to sit on sidewalks at all times, though personal items must be contained to a nine square foot area and not block the public right of way. The City has specific rules regarding lying down/sleeping, which is not permitted near BART station entrances, in residential zones, or in commercial and industrial zones between 7am and 10pm daily except Sunday (not allowed 10am to 10pm).
COVID-19 Public Health Order
On April 2nd, 2020, as part of the City’s Shelter in Place order to curtail the spread of COVID-19, our Public Health Officer declared that public property in the City of Berkeley, including public parks and open space, may be used to isolate and quarantine persons experiencing homelessness who
are infected with or exposed to novel coronavirus, and to provide temporary housing to persons experiencing homelessness who are at elevated risk of being exposed to coronavirus.
Sadly, Berkeley continues to see an influx of unhoused individuals in our parks and on our streets. If you see an encampment that has outstanding health and safety/sanitation concerns, the most efficient way to let the City know is by calling 311 or emailing [email protected] Our Customer Service team then documents the request for service, notifies our Neighborhood Services Team, and can send Public Works for cleanup and an Outreach team to offer services. All notifications to my office will be routed through 311/neighborhood services as well.
If you see dangerous activity, call Berkeley Police at 510-981-5900.
If you see a person in distress, the City’s Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team can be reached at 510-981-5244.
What services does the City provide to move people out of homelessness?
For comprehensive information on Berkeley’s homeless services in Berkeley, go here.
To read about how to access Berkeley’s homeless services, go here.
To read about Berkeley’s Pathways Project, go here.
How much does the City spend on services for the homeless?
The City spends a total of $1.3 million to fund 244 shelter beds, with an additional 45 beds funded through Pathways Navigation Center, for a total of 289 shelter beds.
The 45 shelter beds at Pathways are significantly more expensive (a total of $2.4 million) than the 244 traditional emergency shelter beds because Pathways is doing far more than simply providing respite from the outdoors; staff work to place people into permanent housing and rapid rehousing subsidies are sometimes provided to support clients as they transition. The total $2.4 million reflects these higher costs.
The City spends nearly $18 million in homeless services including mental health outreach, parks maintenance, police, shelter, transitional housing, rental assistance, case management, etc. A breakdown of those funds is provided below:
City departments (police, parks, EMS, outreach, case management) ~$9 million
City funds-community agencies ~$2.8 million
Federal funds–HUD (supportive housing, rental assistance) ~$4.8 million
Federal funds–HUD CDBG (emergency shelter, HUB services) ~302K
Federal funds–HUD HHS, CDBG (shelter, transitional housing) ~159K
Federal funds–HUD Emergency Solutions Grant ~199K
State Funds–Mental Health Services Act ~320K