About 50 people have set up tents on the front lawn of Old City Hall to protest news homeless laws passed by the Berkeley City Council last week. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
An encampment on the front lawn of Old City Hall that was set up to protest homeless laws passed by the Berkeley City Council was dismantled on Dec. 4, 2015. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The Berkeley City Council will again consider how it handles homelessness at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Berkeleyside has published two op-eds in recent days that tackle straight on the subject of homelessness in our city.

Michael Lee, a homeless, disabled senior citizen, argues that the ‘Liberty City’ encampment that was set up by homeless people outside Old City Hall, then dismantled at the request of the city, represented a viable solution rather than a problem.

As he writes: “…we housed and provided storage for 7% of the homeless population. We policed ourselves with very limited assistance from law enforcement. We established a recycling center to generate a community fund. Most importantly we created our own government. The cost to the city was two trash pick-ups. It should be noted that this community was built out of the dirt. We pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps to solve our problem. Isn’t that the American way?”

Genevieve Wilson agrees with Lee. Before the encampment was removed, Wilson, who chairs the steering committee for Berkeley’s Homeless Task Force and works at the Acme Bread Company in West Berkeley, decided she wanted to camp there at least once — “partly because I wanted to see what was really up, and partly because I wanted to meet the participants I had heard so much about, and partly because I had been hidden homeless two years, myself, and the things bound up in protest resonated strongly with my own sentiments while I was without permanent housing in Berkeley.”

Wilson hopes the council will listen to the former campers’ request to help them establish a permanent tent city because she fears, “we’ve fallen prey to the kind of undiscerning intolerance that robs communities of their diversity.”

What do you think? Share your opinion in the Comments sections of the individual op-eds, published in our Opinionator section.

Berkeleyside welcomes submissions of op-ed articles. We ask that we are given first refusal to publish. Topics should be Berkeley-related, local authors are preferred, and we don’t publish anonymous pieces. Email submissions, as Word documents or embedded in the email, to editors@berkeleyside.com. The recommended length is 500-800 words. Please include your name and a one-line bio that includes full, relevant disclosures. Berkeleyside will publish op-ed pieces at its discretion.

Berkeleyside staff

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