BERKELEY CA— My name is Mike Zint. I’m the cofounder of ‘First They Came for The Homeless.’ Recently, city officials and police came by our camp and threatened to enforce a newly-passed city ordinance, which states that its residents must break down their tents at 7 a.m. in the morning, and not set them up again till 10 at night, and are not allowed to cover more then 3 x 3 feet of sidewalk with themselves and their gear.
This camp was established after many months of being chased by the city. It has existed for over two years and has helped many of the city’s most vulnerable get stable, and finally get housed. The mayor has referred to it as a model encampment.
The camp has many seriously disabled residents. The city is expecting those who are wheelchair-bound, Parkinson sufferers, terminal, etc., to break down their tents in the morning and put them back up late at night. The kitchen tent and storage tent will have to go, as well as the large community tent. The camp distributes extra materials to homeless all over the city, performing a huge community service at almost zero cost to the city.
I designed this camp to demonstrate that there is a better way of doing things than criminalization. If you’re homeless in Berkeley, you get tortured. No sleep for RV owners. Dangerous levels of exertion for the frail all over the city. Threat of confiscation if you leave your gear unattended to go to the bathroom or go eat. No homeless gear allowed at BART plaza.
There is not much hope if you’re homeless. Criminalization of the poor is in every city. Rent is too high for a social security check to cover it in any city. There is nowhere near enough affordable housing being built. And everyone but the billionaires are getting poorer. Berkeley needs to do better. Cities need to make humane decisions for the most vulnerable, instead of representing the top.