Quick Action Needed to Stop Proposed Berkeley Anti-Sit Ordinance (Commentary)

By Sally Hindman, Youth Spirit Artworks
Sunday April 03, 2011 - 10:29:00 AM

The City of Berkeley is once again considering action on an anti-sitting ordinance, which would single out homeless people for ticketing, arrests, and possible jail if they are found sitting on the sidewalk in commercial districts. This "perennial weed" (anti-sitting/lying initiatives) is resurfacing, of course, in the worst economic recession in many years, and distracts our community from the step-by-step continued hard work we need to take toward ending homelessness.

Street Spirit will have material about this in its upcoming April issue. Homeless youth are a key target of the proposed effort--yet Berkeley currently has no drop in center for homeless young people and also only has a six month youth shelter with room for 25 young people open from 8pm til 8am. Where do folks expect youth to SIT, if not on the street, with no place to go!!!

The City of Berkeley Chamber of Commerce will be considering whether to push forward as the leader in this fight at its meeting on Monday April 4 Noon to 1pm at the Chamber office located at: 1834 University Avenue--near MLK.  

If you happen to have the lunch hour free this coming Monday, homeless groups, including Youth Spirit Artworks, AFSC/Street Spirit & other groups are organizing in coalition getting people out for this event. Since the Chamber has not yet made a decision about whether in fact to go forward with this--our first thrust will be to see if we can convince them what a BAD IDEA it is--before it's introduced to the City Council. We would love for Friends and others from the religious community to attend the meeting, if only to sit in the audience and eat a sandwich, to let them know the community cares VERY much about this matter! Speakers are also encouraged! 

If you aren't able to come out for the Chamber of Commerce meeting about this on Monday--you could make a QUICK call to their co-CEO's--Polly Armstrong or John deClercq at 549-7000. You could also email them: Pollyarmstrong@berkeleychamber.com or Johndeclercq@berkeleychamber.com. 

Alternatively, if it works to make a super quick phone call to a City Council member: Linda Maio (District 1) at 981-7110 or Darryl Moore (District 2) at 981-7120, Laurie Capitelli (District 5) at 981-7150, or Susan Wengraf (District 6) at 981-7160--this would also be a great help! These are considered the swing Council people on this issue. Linda, Darryl and Laurie are saying they still haven't decided what they will do. We haven't heard yet from Susan. Similarly, you could call Tom Bates (Mayor) at 981-7100 to let him know how disappointed you are he would push for this in a recession (or ever)--when we sooo badly need to focus our efforts in positive directions! 

If/when you call you can leave a super brief voice mail message and simply say you want to let them know you OPPOSE any efforts to push for anti-sitting/lying initiatives in Berkeley--that the City needs to stay the course and continue its "good work" plodding along investing in programs/resources needed to end homelessness! This is a distraction that won't work, and is unjust and discriminatory. 

Thanks for any efforts you might make to take action in solidarity with homeless folks right now--with everything else on your plates! 

P.S. Since a high proportion of the homeless youth on the street are GLBTQI, this is something to be sure to pass on to folks in deep solidarity with GLBTQI young people.