The Chain Reaction of Homeless Relocation
In the city of Berkeley and around the bay area, the homeless epidemic has been a constant problem for city officials. Cities don’t like the homeless living in the streets because they clutter them with their belongings. Homeless people block the flow of pedestrian traffic and makes the city seem uninviting to tourists. City planners have tried helping the homeless by diverting lots of money toward shelters and rehabilitation programs. Though very effective in controlling the homeless population, these tactics are far less efficient and more costly than simply moving the homeless to some less developed part of town or to a completely different city. However, homeless relocation leads to protests, angry homeless citizens and results in the city spending more money in the future. This matters because of the unfair treatment of homeless people, and the wealthy that benefit from their removal and avoidance of the problem.
Since 2009, Berkeley’s homeless population has grown by 53%. The Berkeley homeless population is around 834 people. All these homeless men and women fill Berkeley’s streets which pose as a problem for city officials trying to better the city environment. The homeless have very different backgrounds and needs. Some have drug problems and others are Vietnam veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Because they all are in different situations, it’s hard for cities to create effective programs that would encompass all of them. Berkeley has made many different organizations and centers to help the homeless. Unfortunately all these shelters and centers can’t coordinate properly and resources are not used effectively. The homeless of Berkeley are forced to the streets due to the confusion of city resources. With the homeless on the streets, Berkeley has to use police to push them into places where they aren’t interrupting the city. Where the police put them is on the edge of the city where there is little to eat and few public bathrooms and facilities. This make the homeless aggravated and they protest against this treatment by occupying public areas in front of government buildings. The SF Gate explains the latest homeless encampment protest, “They had three demands: a legal campsite where homeless people can pitch tents, an ending of criminalization of the homelessness and more affordable housing.” This quote shows what the homeless of berkeley want from the city. It explains how the homeless are fed up with the cops pushing them around and how homeless relocation leads to angry homeless people. Another protest on Adeline St. was raided by police on December 21. Berkeleyside.com described what happened: “few dozen police officers and city workers started waking people up and removing their possessions around 4:40 a.m.”
This quote shows how homeless people are being treated unfairly. They don’t have any truly legal place to camp. In situations like this where the homeless are trying to get their voices heard, they are removed in the dead of night without any warning. It’s completely insensitive for the police to wake up these homeless people and tell them to leave.
Now, there is the problem of where they will go. The homeless like being in the heart
of the city where there are parks, public facilities, and many people that may be able to help them. When the police force them out, they are pushed into the crummier areas near highways and into poorer neighborhoods where they have far less access to restrooms and food. Because they can’t get these resources where the police are forcing them to go, the homeless end up coming back into the city and the process starts over. Berkeley will never stop wasting money on forcing out the homeless unless they set up something for them to fall back on; a system that actually works or somehow make much more affordable housing. Berkeley has tried to make many centers and services in the past; the latest being The Hub that was set up last january. “Protesters have said the center is disorganized, that it’s too difficult to get help and that people are being sent out of the area for housing.”
This quote explains that even the latest center to help the homeless is proving itself ineffective and costly. The only other solution berkeley has to help the homeless is to create more affordable housing. The Berkeley Side says that Berkeley city council has been talking about the problem of expensive real estate. They say, “The city council will devote a portion of its April 5 meeting to considering solutions for the affordable housing crisis.”
This quote demonstrates that the governments is slow and decisions need to be thought through very thoroughly. Approving a space and finding the money for affordable housing could take years. Berkeley’s only short term solution now is to relocate the homeless.
As it stands, the only people that benefit from the removal of homeless people are the business owners and wealthy snobbish citizens. A student of CAL on Reddit said, “South side is dirty and I personally prefer living somewhere that doesn’t have people sitting and very obviously doing drugs.”
This quote shows that for snobby college students, homeless relocation is beneficial because it means they don’t have to look at people who don’t have as much as them and are less fortunate. For business owners this means that there are more customers. Without homeless people on the streets, Snobby tourists from San Francisco and other wealthy cities are more likely to come to berkeley to spend money. Because of this, it tends to be that businesses are in favor of homeless relocation. They will get more customers from tourists passing through which means more money in their pockets. City officials like homeless relocation because it boosts the economy.
Another result of homeless relocation is the large amount of personal belongings left behind. Caltrans, the dumping organization is supposed to hold what is valuable for 30 days to be claimed. But, as Berkeleyside states, “A number of homeless people say that Caltrans is not sorting through what is valuable and what is not, and instead is throwing stuff directly into garbage trucks.”
This is completely unfair to the homeless that only have the stuff Caltrans calls garbage. Also, Caltrans can’t tell what is valuable and what is not. They very well may have thrown out a precious item without even knowing or caring. This shows how little respect homeless people in Berkeley have and how unfairly they are treated.
To conclude, Homeless relocation is a cycle of Berkeley city leaders paying city maintenance workers to clean up homeless camps and shove homeless away from the tourist areas of the city and toward less populated and poorer areas where they have less food and fewer public facilities. The removal of the homeless from the more populous areas result in economic growth with snobby tourists coming to the city and spending there money, which benefits store owners. Because the homeless are removed in such a way that it is done in the very early morning and most of the homeless people’s belongings end up in the garbage, the homeless get very mad because of this unfair treatment. The homeless fight back by occupying inner city public land and the cycle restarts. The only way Berkeley can break this cycle is to make more effective Homeless centers and shelters or find away to create affordable housing. Both are very hard to do because the city only has so much money and the city takes a long time to approve where that money should go. The homeless should not be relocated to break the cycle and save money for housing and homeless shelters that can make Berkeley a better city.