It's a Camp Out

Berkeley approves plans for city-managed homeless encampment

There are approximately 1,000 homeless community living in Berkeley. (Courtesy UC Berkeley)

Amid several proposals to temporarily house members of the Bay Area‘s homeless community (including one that would repurpose disused cruise ships into homeless housing), a recently approved plan for the city of Berkeley is finally moving forward. Councilperson Kate Harrison presented to Berkeley’s City Council—and received voter approval for—a scheme for a city-run homeless encampment that would be able to house up to 50 residents at a time during its initial trial period.

Harrison’s proposal would require the construction of several wind-resistant tents and accompanying plumbing services, and would necessitate trash pickup to be coordinated by city employees. She then offered a parcel on University Avenue as a potential site for the encampment before emphasizing that there are many potential properties throughout Berkeley to begin the pilot program. The project as it’s currently envisioned is in line with the Governor’s recent executive order to develop vacant properties throughout California into sites for affordable housing.

The plan received support from Moms 4 Housing lawyer Leah Simon-Weisberg and the nonprofit group East Bay Citizens For Action, and only received minor criticism from fellow councilmembers prior to its eventual approval. Councilmember Susan Wengraf, for instance, expressed her opinion that while a solution for the city’s homeless shouldn’t be further delayed, Harrison’s proposal would require a great number of man-hours than the city is currently able to provide, while Lori Droste questioned the status of preexisting, unlicensed camps in the area if the plan were to go forward. “We’re all tired,” Harrison responded. “We need solutions tomorrow also, but we need solutions now.”

The Berkeley city staff will spend the next few months determining an ideal site for the project as well as the manufacturers for the tents. During the encampment’s trial run, the project is expected to operate for less than a year and will largely function as a means of protection for those in need against extreme outdoor temperatures during the winter months.

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