dogNothing grabs at the heart quite as strongly as adorable, fuzzy animals. The people over at Paw Fund seem to know this, as it is a nonprofit that helps both the homeless and lower-income to pay for medical bills for their pets.

Founded in January by Jill Posener, the organization started with $25,000 in donations and has helped about 30 animals get spayed or neutered and obtained medical attention for 50 others.

This Sunday, May 22, Paw Fund along with People and Animals Living Safely will hold a free animal care clinic in People’s Park from 11 am to 4 pm. We’re just glad that help is being made more readily available for these animals.

Image Source: Jodene under Creative Commons
Pets of the homeless to get help at People’s Park clinic [Berkeleyside]

homeless berkWhat other city can say that they have a park devoted solely to the lodging, recreation and other … questionable activities of their homeless population? What other city can say they have a newspaper dedicated to “empowering poor and homeless people and giving a voice to the voiceless?”

Ah, Berkeley. There’s a lot of competition for our spare change, yet there always seems to be an interminable number of cups vying to collect it. But despite the fact that those without a home seem to find this a nice place to lay their sleeping bag, Berkeley residents are apparently not so nice to them.

According to a recent report entitled “Homes Not Handcuffs,” by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless, Berkeley ranks number ten on their list of meanest cities in the nation. Ironically, all the cities making the top ten are known for their large homeless population. read more »

More than a year ago Mayor Tom Bates decided that we could no longer smoke, panhandle or unroll our sleeping bags on the streets of Berkeley, but things (as you can tell) have yet to really change. Disgruntled shop owners have been grumbling about the “crowded and dirty sidewalks and inappropriate or threatening street behavior” (apparently this is a kinder way of saying sidewalk squatting, aggressive panhandling, smoking, and doing one’s … business). read more »

Berkeley, ranked the third most liberal city in the U.S. by Wikipedia, ironically also ranks number 14 on a list of the “Top 20 Meanest U.S. Cities.” And if that’s not shocking enough, wait ’till you hear their criteria for calling us mean: the study was apparently based on “how they treat the homeless who live within their city limits, as well as purported civil rights violations.” So basically they’re saying we’re not just mean, but mean to our homeless.

Maybe they didn’t realize that Berkeley has a park and basically all of Shattuck and Telegraph avenues devoted to our undocumented residents. According to the “Homeless Survival Guide,” (yeah we did some research) we also have over 13 churches and Food Banks giving away free grub, nine shelters and numerous free health clinics in our city. Food Not Bombs also serves a meal everyday at 2:30 p.m. in People’s Park and we’re pretty sure we’ve seen some “bums” with better laptops than ours. Our own mayor was even homeless for a day. read more »

Wait, what? There was a line in the Berkeley Municipal Code from 1946 that made it “unlawful for any person to loiter about any school or public place at or near which schoolchildren attend”? Apparently so, and although it doesn’t seem loitering laws matter to Berkeley very much–the 1946 code did cause one policeman to recently ticket a disabled homeless woman, Kim Nemirow, as she sat on a blanket in Willard Park.

Thanks to Nemirow’s case, however, the law has been repealed for being vague and potentially discriminatory. After all, as one attorney put it, “What the heck are parks for, if not for loitering?”

Image Source: dannyman under Creative Commons
Outdated Berkeley loitering law repealed [Oakland Tribune]

So said Jeffrey Lebowski to The Dude in “The Big Lebowski,” and the phrase will apply to Berkeley next month. A group of volunteers patrolling Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues will try to help the homeless on said streets by providing literature on housing and city services. According to KCBS, the Cody’s Books on Telegraph closed (not the most recent closing, but an earlier one) due to a degradation so massive, it effectively kept anyone from shopping at Telegraph stores. Which would be a fine theory if, you know, people actually stopped shopping on Telegraph. But they didn’t stop then and they keep shopping now.

So why did it take this long for the foot patrols to organize? Perhaps rising food costs kept restaurant patrons from leaving their houses, and the homeless were unfairly blamed for a decline in business. It’s a bit of a stretch, but we couldn’t think of any way to fault the tree-people instead.

Image Source: PixelAlibi under Creative Commons
Foot Patrols to Discourage Homeless in Berkeley [KCBS]

800px-peoples_park_25_years.jpg Many of you Cal students love, loathe or perhaps live in People’s Park. If you feel strongly about the place and have a few years to spare–then now is your chance to contribute to its painstakingly deliberated future!

Drama went down at the People’s Park Advisory Board early this month when five members of the board collectively resigned. In short, the five wanted to get cracking on park improvements by holding a student design contest (because the College of Environmental Design doesn’t have enough of those), while the university–which owns the land–needs to think about that a little bit. What if they don’t want a park anymore? What if they want to build housing? No, not for the homeless people, but for graduate students (who are probably just as poor).

read more »

Despite conspiracy theories about Berkeley trying to get rid of the homeless, Mayor Tom Bates’s Public Commons for Everyone Initiative has made it through the red tape to the green light.

Cliches aside, the Clog seems to find the well-intentioned initiative at least partially redundant. Last time we checked, sex on the sidewalks isn’t totally legal anyway, so why raise parking meter prices 25 cents per hour to enforce its apparent uber-illegality?

Ah, because the initiative also increases homeless services–you know, some phone tree to make finding space in homeless shelters efficient and more public toilets to replace the current failed public health experiment on the sidewalks.

But despite pumping parking meter revenue (from all 12 working meters!) into the problem, others, including Councilmember Dona Spring, found the initiative “immoral and also illegal” on grounds that criminalizing homelessness worsens the problem of limited space in homeless shelters. Apparently she missed the part about increasing services for the homeless.

We suppose the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative won’t solve homelessness or really make any marked difference in our lives other than raising the price of parking meters–so, no, we have no spare change–but at least Berkeley’s plan doesn’t include a shuttle bus to Brentwood.

Image Source: Shayan Sanyal under Creative Commons
Council OKs Public Commons Initiative [Daily Cal]
Curb Your Aggression [Daily Cal]
Episode 1107: Night of the Living Homeless [South Park Zone]

As exhausted as we at the Clog are by the seemingly endless protest at the Nuclear-Free-Vegan-Save-The-Trees-Zone (satirical and probably factual representation here, thanks to the SF Chronicle), we found this surprising parallel to the rude, crude and socially unacceptable– in anywhere but Berkeley – behaviors of the tree people: the homeless.

It makes sense to us – neither appear to have jobs, homes or showers, so they do what they can: squat on someone else’s property.

The Chronicle’s article points out just how little security guards at San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal actually do to serve their employers’ interests – unless ignoring the de facto homeless shelter is in the Transbay Terminal’s interests. The homeless who reside there aren’t cited for defecating or urinating on the building’s floors, nor for loitering or spending the night: only for letting their feet leave the floor.

And while toilets for floors are certainly a good enough reason for us to take BART to San Francisco instead of using the free (with AC Transit Class Pass) F line bus, the vagrant population seems eerily familiar to those who reside in privately-owned public places on our side of the bay, like the oak grove at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.

The odd community the tree people have formed with the UC police officers isn’t quite as passive as that of the Transbay Terminal, but maybe that’s because the homeless, unlike the tree people, aren’t fighting for anything other than a warm place to rest.

Either way, both parties are–for the most part–equally irritating, equally unsanitary and equally taxing on the communities who have to deal with (or ignore or take pictures of) them every day.

Image Source: Shamim Pakzad, Daily Cal
Guards, homeless form odd kind of community at Transbay Terminal [SF Gate]
Meyer’s Take: Thursday, September 20, 2007 [SF Gate]
Campus sideshow overshadows facts [SF Gate]
Friends in High Places [Daily Cal]

A few weeks ago, the City of Berkeley announced that it approved some parts of the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative—sending most of it back to the city manager to figure out before a fall meeting decides the initiative’s fate.

But not everyone likes this idea.

On, someone has come to the defense of the homeless, whom many think that the Public Common for Everyone Initiative targets directly.

This complainer writes:

bq. More anti-homeless proposals are being scheduled to come up for another city council vote sometime soon during the fall. The proposals being considered include strict enforcement of laws against noise disturbances such as yelling, parking a bicycle against a window or on a parking meter, smoking near buildings, unauthorized possession of a milk crate, obstructing or restricting use of the sidewalk, reducing warning provisions for sitting or lying down on sidewalks, littering, hitching animals to fixed objects, unauthorized possession of a shopping cart, increased fines for using the great outdoors as a lavatory, public drunkeness or drug abuse, and anything else that city officials can dream up as an excuse to run the homeless out of town.

Um, getting rid of some of those things, if not all of those things isn’t beneficial to the city? Yeah, why don’t we continue to litter and make Berkeley look like a third-rate dump. Yeah, why don’t we use the local neighborhood park as a bathroom. Seems very draconian to us for the city to not want these things (read: we’re being sarcastic).

And apparently even talks about the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative have already spooked some of the city’s homeless population into leaving. Osha Neumann, an attorney who defends the city’s homeless said:

bq. “The homeless know what is going on, they feel frightened and some are already talking about leaving town. The downtown police bike patrols get to know the homeless hot spots and get to know the homeless on a first name basis, making it very easy to target them for removal”

We’ll let you decide whether or not the homeless population leaving Berkeley is good for the city. But for now, we’ll be quietly waiting for that Summer Orientation issue to come out tomorrow.

Earlier: City Council Going to Clean Up the Streets
War on the homeless heats up in Berkeley []

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