Public Comment

Press Release: Solution to Berkeley's Homeless Problem: Number the Homeless (A Modest Proposal)

From Karen Able
Friday October 19, 2012 - 11:19:00 PM

The “Measure S” campaign has morphed into a brutal back and forth pitting bleeding hearts against business buffs, but really is just a facade to deny homeless people their rights on both sides. Citizens for the Numbering of Homeless People calls for a return to the original purpose of the measure and announces a write-in campaign:

“Vote No on Measure S, Write-In for Measure #S!” 

The proposal for what is now Measure S began in 2011 as a much more equitable and effective proposal from Citizens for the Numbering of Homeless People (CNHP), a grassroots organization of business owners, homeless people, and concerned Berkeley citizens. The original law would require that every three months, homeless people be assigned a number. Measure #S would make it a crime for even numbered homeless people to be present in Berkeley on odd numbered days and odd numbered homeless people to be present on even numbered days. This measure is a much more rational approach to dealing with the homelessness problem, as it divides people by 24 hour shifts, rather than the half-day shifts proposed by Measure S. 

Homeless numbering laws have been widely successful in other cities across the nation. In Jackson, Mississippi, a homeless numbering law came into effect in January 2008. Jackson immediately saw the number of homeless people in the city reduce by half, and businesses in Jackson have, as an effect, been the least impacted by the recession than in any other American city.  

Following Jackson’s lead, Birmingham, Alabama implemented its homeless numbering law in 2009. Homeless individuals were initially cited for violations of the law, which led them directly to services. “I don’t understand why more cities don’t realize it: when we get the criminal justice system involved, people will just get the services they need,” said Mayor William Bell. Just six months after the numbering law came into effect, so many homeless individuals had been pushed into housing as a result of their citations that the homeless had to be re-numbered. 

A poll conducted by CNHP in 2011 showed that homeless people in Berkeley supported homeless numbering laws by a 3-1 margin. They cited reduced competition for donations during their shifts as well as the need to be pushed into services. When asked about the write in campaign, “Vote No on Measure S, Write-In for Measure #S,” Darryl Compton, a long-time homeless resident of Berkeley, was strongly in favor. “I have been waiting for something like this for a long time,” says Compton. 

Join Citizens for the Numbering of Homeless People in the write-in vote next month. Vote no on S, and then write for Measure #S. Together, Berkeley can join Jackson and Birmingham in improving the safety of the streets, supporting our small businesses, and helping homeless people find the services they need. 

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If you’d like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Karen Able, please call Karen Able at (510) 900-9222 or email at