Eleven people moved into temporary or overnight housing when the city evicted 19 homeless residents at Willard and Civic Center parks last week, according to the city’s homeless response team.
The city did outreach at the encampments in January, according to Peter Radu, assistant to the city manager and head of the team. He said an initial census on Jan. 26 found five people sleeping at Willard Park. They were given priority for beds at the Berkeley Inn and the Rodeway Inn, and four people eventually accepted the offer.
Radu said one woman staying in the south end of Willard Park, who had likely lived there between 15 to 20 years, didn’t want a room at the Berkeley Inn but accepted an offer to move to the Harrison House shelter.
On Nextdoor this week, neighbors in the area expressed concern about the longtime resident and wondered where she had gone. Radu confirmed Tuesday that she is safe and received help moving into her temporary housing.
“The Neighborhood Services team drove her to the front door that morning and was able to purchase her new clothing and personal products and is checking in with her to ensure she continues to settle in and stay comfortable there,” said Radu, explaining that the Berkeley Police community service liaisons ultimately helped convince her to move with “patient and compassionate conversation.”
Two other people at the park declined 30-day motel vouchers and had to leave the park with their belongings.
Radu said no one was arrested or cited in the Willard or Civic Center closures.
Six people lived at Civic Center Park when the city took its census in late January. Five people moved to the Berkeley Inn, and the city learned one person still had access to a bed at Dorothy Day House.
Six more people came to the park after the initial census because they heard the city was doing outreach for non-congregate shelter beds with personal rooms, Radu said.
The city told them those counted during the original census at Willard Park had priority. Once spots were filled at the Berkeley Inn, the remaining people were offered night stays at the congregate North Berkeley Senior Center.
The senior center is an emergency winter shelter and opens when temperatures drop under 45 degrees or there’s a 50% chance of rain.
Those six didn’t take temporary shelter offers or overnight beds at the emergency shelter, according to Radu, and had to take their belongings and leave.
There has never been a significant number of people living in either park, according to Paul Kealoha-Blake, a volunteer with Consider the Homeless. The largest encampment in Civic Center Park was during the Occupy Wall Street movement in Berkeley.
The encampment at Willard Park briefly grew during the pandemic, but the city quickly pursued evictions and relocations after neighbor complaints in the area.
Featured photo: Civic Center Park in 2019. Credit: Jerome Paulos