Maceo Clardy, 65, who was housed in Berkeley last September after 40 years of homelessness, returned to the streets after he was evicted this week.
His eviction proceedings began shortly after he began renting the apartment last September. On Tuesday afternoon, Alameda County sheriff’s deputies arrived at his South Berkeley senior complex to lock him out of the apartment.
Satellite Affordable Housing Advocates (SAHA) was able to move forward with the eviction, despite Berkeley’s lingering COVID-19 eviction moratorium because of claims that Clardy endangered the health and safety of other people at the apartment.
“Out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Clardy, we cannot share the specifics of his legal case,” said Daniel Ponce, regional property director for SAHA.
Clardy was in the process of appealing his eviction and was given two 30-day stays. Oral arguments in his appeals case are upcoming, but no date has been set yet.
On Tuesday evening, hours after he had been evicted from his Berkeley apartment, Clardy sat at the edge of Civic Center Park and looked out toward the trees at the center of the park. Several people had set up a handful of tents beneath them, forming a small encampment.
“I don’t want to live like this,” said Clardy, who has HIV and chronic conditions that impact his health. He said he can’t take up an offer for emergency congregate housing (or shared rooms) because it would be a danger to his health, and he feels he would be a danger to others because of his mental state.
Clardy’s attorney and other East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) staff members tried to find him another place to stay. But by Tuesday evening, they had come up with few options.
On top of dealing with the eviction lockout, Clardy was also having trouble accessing his social security benefits and couldn’t pay for a hotel room or other shelter. He never learned to read or write, which made it impossible to understand mailed notices regarding the eviction and his benefits.
So, later that evening, Clardy made his way to Civic Center Park with his bike, a jacket and two bags of food from EBCLC staff in tow.
The park was a familiar place. Clardy said he had spent many nights sleeping under the trees or against nearby buildings.
But things were different now. Clardy was older. He couldn’t move as fast.
“I was truly wanting to be free from this,” he told Berkeleyside as he sat at the edge of the sidewalk, looking out at the park. Overhead, clouds were rolling in, blocking out the sunset. “I want to have a better chance at what they gave me.”
He covered himself with a small piece of discarded tent that he found in the area. Even one night in those conditions could seriously jeopardize his health, Clardy said, especially if he contracted a virus or illness from someone nearby.
Wednesday brought a flurry of phone calls, wait times and navigating bureaucracy with social workers.
Jasmine Cuenca, an East Bay Community Law Center social worker, sat with Clardy for hours, helping him contact 211, the county’s emergency housing number, the Social Security Administration and other support workers.
“I think it’s a lot of strapped nonprofits trying to do their best in a really, really messed up system,” Cuenca said of 211. “But getting the runaround, even as a social worker, is hard. I can’t imagine what it’s like when you’re actively in crisis.”
Clardy secured a “small win” later in the day when he walked to the Homeless Action Center office on Shattuck Avenue, connected with an attorney, and had them fax a letter to SSA to inquire about his benefits.
Cuenca then made a series of trips with Clardy to stores around town to find a tent for Wednesday night. She got lucky at the Goodwill on University Avenue, where helpful employees pointed her to a remaining tent and sleeping bag.
“By the end of the day, he was so exhausted, but so grateful he wasn’t sleeping on concrete,” Cuenca said. “We both felt like we had wins by the end of the day.”
With the tent and sleeping bag, Clardy slept in a median on Shattuck Avenue Wednesday night.
Caseworkers have an itemized list of Clardy’s belongings locked in his former apartment, and they’re working to secure a storage facility. SAHA legally has to allow at least 15 days for Clardy to reclaim his items.
Cuenca has limited funding (a check was sent to EBCLC on Clardy’s behalf following Berkeleyside’s previous reporting) for a storage site, but said she’s trying to find someone who could help move his belongings — ideally for free.