Berkeley officials shut down the prominent Here There camp on the Berkeley-Oakland border this week, six years onProtest movement took root at the crossroadsto raise awareness of the homelessness and housing shortage in Berkeley.
When it closed, only six people lived in the camp. They all took temporary shelters at the Super 8 Motel on University Avenue (on California Street) as part of the Alameda County Winter Shelter Motel Voucher Program, and there was minimal resistance to the closure.
Residents are allowed to stay at the motel for 60 days while the city says it will work to arrange permanent housing for them in apartments.
Julio Lee was one of the last camp residents on Monday to leave the camp. Her priority was her pets - Kt the dog and the cats Knowmie and Banxi. His pet records weren't shared with the motel, and he felt an RV offered by the city would be no better than staying in his vehicle, which is usually parked outside here.
The city began reaching out to the camp in December and released a final notice over the weekend, according to Peter Radu, director of the city's homeless response team. When the time finally came, Lee was still struggling to pack his things. Animal services took Knowmie Tuesday, but Lee said he returned her a day later.
Two other residents, Marcos Hernandez and a resident named Osa after an African deity, moved into the motel earlier this week. Osa said she's looking forward to being housed, saying it would be much better than the camp, which has struggled with litter, rodents and mold in recent months.
Activist groups and neighborhood email threads were activated when the camp received the weekend closure, but residents were almost ready to leave the space.
As with the closure of camps across the city, some questioned whether the housing offer was less of an offer and more of an ultimatum.
Phoebe Thomas Sorgen, a former Berkeley peace and justice commissioner who has been active with Here There Camp and other Berkeley homeless organizations, said she's concerned about whether residents will find permanent housing after their motel stay and what they're getting into will give up their tents if they don't.
"I think it's okay to offer [campers] that option and that's a human thing," Sorgen said. "But it shouldn't have been a choice between moving into a hotel for 60 days or losing everything you own. Since you may need these tents in 60 days, there's no guarantee they'll have a shelter in 60 days - but there should be."
The city will keep some items in the company yard for a limited number of days based on theirsstorage policy, but that doesn't include dirty or moldy items.
South Berkeley City Councilman Ben Bartlett, who has overseen the neighborhood since camp began, said the city has made large investments in services and housing for the homeless since the protest movement began, and he is confident the city can find housing for displaced camp residents become .
"Ultimately, [the city] and county have a very good track record of housing people, and I have no reason to believe that's not going to work," Bartlett said, referring to the results of the city's pandemic housing programs as how Roomkey Project. and Homekey, as well as numbers that are displayedThe number of homeless people in Berkeley has decreased slightlywhile regional numbers increased last year.
When protesters set up the camp in 2017, Bartlett supported their vision, saying they were peaceful neighbors. In thecommunity meetingsBartlett was held that year, activists campaigned for services like portable toilets and garbage services for him. The city retrofitted the toilet and added oneHand washing station during the pandemic.
But in recent months, garbage and debris have piled up on the site, and an infestation of rats has begun, according to the city and local residents.
“They have long been a good model of cooperative life; They helped people find housing," Bartlett said. "They will definitely be a remarkable chapter in the history of South Berkeley."
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The camp, which stood on the corner of Adeline Street south of Alcatraz Avenue for about six years, began the "Poor Tour" movement in 2014.
members ofFirst they came for the homeless, who last spoke out for residents incampsites along Interstate 80,settled in the Green Triangle on BART grounds after being tossed back and forth countless times between the Old City Hall and other public spaces.
Eventually, BART pushed residents off their property and erected a fence around the lawn. The current iteration of camp spanned a long pedestrian mall from Berkeley to Oakland and shook to the screeching of BART trains all day.
A specific and organized group of camp residents belonged to a sober camp with a list of conditions for living together, but throughout its history residents had disagreements with people who did not follow the rules.
Lee, who moved to Here There in June 2020, said these disagreements and lack of respect for the camp's cleanliness and order have escalated in recent months. He said he's one of the few people who keeps a garbage collection schedule or cares about the place and that must be overwhelming.
It has suffered here toothe loss of its founders– Mike Lee,Mike Zinnand Clark Sullivan - who died during the pandemic.
"There was always a balance between neighborhood supporters and those who disagreed with the camp," Bartlett said. "With the loss of Michael Zint and Michael Lee and some of the elders, the character of the camp has changed quite a bit."
Bartlett said the camp "got lost" after elders died and health and safety conditions deteriorated.
Pastor Preston Walker was living at Here There Camp in 2017 and briefly relocated with the protest group before arriving at their final campground. He said he and others were swept away by Berkeley police at 5 a.m. before the city finally decided to leave the camp alone.
He eventually moved to Oakland and now lives in an apartment in Fremont. He said the Here There camp had long survived with the motto "everybody care for everyone else," but the deaths of its top leaders, many of whom were former Occupy protesters from San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, changed it .
"When these three left this country, things started to fall apart in the camp because all the strong leaders were gone," Walker said. "And that really hurt the movement."
As of Tuesday night, the old camp, which housed about 20 residents at its peak, was replaced with a chain-link fence that encircled the entire half-block.
The BART trains continued, and residents returning home to the neighborhood stopped to watch the dramatic change in scenery.
Some wondered where the former residents had gone, and others noted that they were hoping to be somewhere warmer during a particularly cold winter.