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[Press] Homelessness in Berkeley: An overview

This article written by Frances Dinkelspiel and published on June 29, 2016 gives an outline of the mass homelessness issues in Berkeley. The article discusses programs that Berkeley has tried to implement, and the issues with a lack of housing and affordable housing. BOSS is mentioned as an organization that is working to tackle mass homelessness despite the rising percentages of homeless individuals in the city.


Despite the myriad approaches, the homeless situation has not gotten better. Numerous “travelers” crowd the sidewalks of Telegraph Avenue. There are encampments of homeless at Willard Park and Ohlone Park, and many other city parks. The people living in their cars, vans and campers play a game of musical chairs with the police. They have gone from Harrison Street to Fourth Street to Second Street to the Marina. And the encampment by the Gilman Street underpass and the frontage road nearby seems permanent.

It’s a “growing problem,” said Councilman Jesse Arreguín, who headed up a task force that took a deep dive into the city’s homeless issues. “Just look on the street, throughout the entire city. It’s not just the downtown and Telegraph. We are seeing encampments in the parks. We’re seeing people camping out in West Berkeley. There is an ongoing encampment under the Gilman underpass. It’s a very tragic situation.”

Every year, Berkeley gives about $3 million to homeless services providers. And some of that money has had an effect. A recent report on Berkeley’s homeless population showed that the estimated number of veterans living on the streets had declined by 40% over six years, from 130 to 78. In just five months, the city’s new streamlined service center to address homelessness has gotten housing or housing vouchers for 17 people.

Yet the number of homeless in Berkeley keeps growing, despite the outpouring of funds and the hard work of numerous service providers like Berkeley Food & Housing Project, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, Youth Spirit Artworks, the Berkeley Community Law Center, YEAH!, and many other organizations. A count performed on Jan. 28, 2015, found that there were an estimated 834 homeless people in Berkeley, a 23% increase over the last count in 2009. And a subset of that figure — those who are living on the streets or in other places not designed for habitation — grew 59% since 2009, up to 568 people. Most of these are older men, both white and African American, and single.

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