Public Comment

Kill Off Berkeley's Subcommittee on Homelessness

Carol Denney
Saturday February 10, 2018 - 04:59:00 PM

If you were really feeling generous about the Subcommittee on Homelessness, you would suggest that its forerunner was the Homeless Task Force, the large group of organizers, homeless people, non-profit representatives, and city officials who met for two years before the last election and produced a set of recommendations by consensus, which in this town is a pretty radical act. 

This was the group where you'd meet homeless people, if you'd never met them. You'd encounter non-profit representatives with their strange, wonky vocabularies. You'd meet the well-intended citizens would can never quite uproot their obvious Marxist origins. It was easily a group of over a hundred people who managed to up their neighbors' game, such that if you'd never heard the phrase "housing first" you'd hear that, along with all the semantic variations the city was about to use to subvert it. 

But the new Subcommittee on Homelessness is different. It's an echo chamber where good ideas go to die. And it's a springboard for the worst instincts in the City Manager's office which get turned into proposals unfiltered by any commission, unvetted by any of the able local nonprofits. I was there in the beginning when it was held in a large room and had local advocates, tent city representatives, more than the usual suspects. Those days are gone. 

If the current city council is not willing to kill off the Subcommittee on Homelessness, I have a suggestion. If one crime takes place within a Berkeley City Councilmember's district, all the people who live on that City Councilmember's block should have the police come and empty their homes of everything inside. If the people protest that they haven't done anything wrong, the police should just instruct them that they need to stand aside or they will be arrested. When they get out of jail, or after they've watched every last board game and shoe thrown onto the sidewalk in front of their homes, they can begin to try to reassemble their lives. 

And if this happens often enough, as it does to people doing their best to survive in tent cities, they'll be looking for new city council representation. And with a couple of wonderful and obvious exceptions to the rule, it's about time.